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Type #dalgonacoffee into any social media search bar and you’ll end up scrolling through thousands of images and videos. You’ll see icy glasses of milk topped with a frothy dollop of whipped instant coffee, sugar and hot water. On Tiktok, the hashtag has racked up more than 200 million views in the last month alone. But this challenge has left many people in Korea, where ‘dalgona’ originated, scratching their heads in confusion.
In Korea, dalgona has nothing to do with coffee. Instead, it refers to an airy honeycomb candy that became popular in the 1960s. In fact, many Koreans have fond childhood memories of this melt-in-your-mouth candy, which was sold on sticks, like a lollipop, by street vendors. The deal was that if you could eat cleanly around the shape without breaking it, you could win a free dalgona or even a small toy.
The only resemblance between the #dalgonacoffee trend and authentic dalgona is perhaps the flavor: sweet with a slightly bitter aftertaste. That’s not to say the original dalgona honeycomb can’t be combined with coffee; that’s exactly what Café Cha did in 2019, when they opened a trendy cafe in Seoul with dalgona-inspired drinks and baked goods. The results are even better than what you’ve seen from the viral dalgona challenge (see here: https://www.instagram.com/cha_seongsu/)
“One of the reasons #dalgonacoffeechallenge went viral was because it only requires three ingredients that everyone can pull out of their pantries during quarantine,” Hong says. “Dalgona is actually quite hard to make at home without burning it! We challenge you to make the real honeycomb toffee dalgona at home!”
Making authentic Dalgona at home: The original dalgona is made by melting sugar and oil together, then frothing it up with baking soda. While the mixture is still hot and fluffy – much like whipped cream – it is poured into moulds and left to harden. Once it’s a candy-like texture, you can crush it up and sprinkle it on top of your coffee latte to make an authentic dalgona drink. The secret, according to Hong, is to let the dalgona toffee sit on the milk froth for 5–10 minutes; it then melts into your latte for that extra delicious boost. Café Cha does the same with tea. They mix a shot of assam black tea leaves with milk and top it with crunchy dalgona. The tea slowly sweetens as the honeycomb melts.
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