Did you know that the coronavirus social media challenges’ Dalgona coffee has roots in South Korea? It’s a South Korean street treat that was popular in the 70s and 80s. And the recent rage started in January when Korean actor Jung Il-woo showed how to make Dalgona coffee!
The coffee first popped up in January in Korea when a clip of Korean TV ‘Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun – Staurant featuring Jung Il-woo ordering a coffee in Macau. He ordered a custom coffee with two-to-two ratio of instant coffee and sugar. One of the commentators say, “Isn’t that like sweet sugar candy?”, hence, ‘dalgona coffee.’
Over the last few days, people have been sharing their attempts at making Dalgona coffee on TikTok, Instagram, and even Facebook. Search #dalgonacoffee on Instagram, and you’ll get more than 295,000 posts. On TikTok, that number reaches 223 million views.
The recipe goes something like this:
You need two tablespoons each of instant coffee (or espresso), granulated sugar, and boiling water. Combine the instant coffee and sugar in a bowl and add the hot water. Now, you can use a hand mixer or a whisk to beat the mixture until its light and fluffy (about five minutes or so for hand whisking). After it’s done, spoon the creamy and thick coffee onto a glass of iced milk or hot milk.
And then you’re done!
Take a picture and enjoy the fruits of your effort!
It’s a low commitment recipe – just takes about five minutes.
Overall, the coffee is slightly bitter with a sweet aftertaste. The main appeal, besides social media challenges, is the velvety soft texture of the coffee-flavored cream.
It is essentially a frothy concoction that you can also refer to as whipped coffee. The coffee has been trending since going viral in South Korea earlier this year. It became a global trend later because people are feeling stir-crazy at home while social distancing.
But, there are always skeptics who wonder, is it as easy to make as it appears to be? Especially when you know that it only contains just three basic ingredients – instant coffee granules, water, and sugar!
Well, it works. Somehow, when you mix coffee, sugar, and water and start whipping it, you get a thick whipped cream-esq texture.
The Story of Dalgona
Not many people know that dalgona (or ppopgi in Korean) means “honeycomb toffee.” For Koreans, it evokes memories of their childhood and local street foods. The dalgona treat was very popular in 1970s and 80s in South Korea – before the introduction of American fast food, Mc Donalds. It’s not like caramel, which is only sweet. Dalgona tastes sweet at first, and then it has a bitter aftertaste. It makes it a perfect companion as a snack or treat while enjoying milk tea.
Dalgona is made by mixing sugar with water and boiling it until it starts turning slightly yellow. Then baking soda is added, after which the mixture breaks down, and carbon dioxide is released. The liquidized sugar puffs up and hardens, becoming light and crunchy. It resembles a giant lollipop with the outline of a shape. You have to eat Dalgona around the outline without breaking the shape in the middle.
Dalgona Coffee Origins
The origin story of dalgona coffee is complicated. The trend shares its name with the Korea’s version of honeycomb candy – dalgona. There are many variations of whipped coffees around the world with different names. You will find similar recipes in India, Greece, Libiya, and even Cuba. The hand-beaten coffee method makes a simple coffee drink into something lively and fun! You get a cappuccino-like feel even without having the frother or an espresso machine.
Though right now, South Korea gets the credit for making ‘dalgona coffee’ popular among masses.
Café Cha (cha_seongsu)
Café Cha in Seoul is the home of the original Dalgona coffee – way before it became viral! The café opened in September 2019, intending to re-introduce Dalgona to people through drinks. According to Kenny Hong Kyoung-soo, co-founder of Cafe Cha, just like the British use sugar cubes in milk tea, he prefers Dalgona.
You can find the delicious dalgona treats and chai at 2 Seoulsup 6-gil, Seoul.
With travel restrictions in place around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak, few will be able to fly to Seoul to try the real dalgona any time soon. We’ll just have to be content with mixing the drink ourselves at home and wait for the restrictions to be lifted.
Soon, you might even find this hand-beated coffee, with a fancy name of dalgona coffee, in your favorite coffee shop!