The hit drama Squid Game portrays a brutally nihilistic series of children’s “games” in which poverty-stricken people compete. One of the games in the show is ppopgi, in which players use a needle to poke a shape out of honeycomb candy. The confection, called dalgona, is a real Korean treat made from baking soda and sugar, with a shape pressed into the candy as it cools. Ppopgi is real, too—but the twist of Squid Game is that, as with other games, if players lose, they die.
If you’d prefer to try dalgona without the risk of death, you can find the candy at Annandale’s Shilla Bakery for $4.99 (though you have to order a week in advance). Customers have been buying the candies to play ppopgi in groups, says Shilla CEO Richard Yu, who cites its retro appeal as well: “The game preceded Squid Game back to the ’60s or ’70s, so to see so many people doing that feels very heartwarming.”
Richard Yu’s mother, Ji Yu, who co-founded Shilla Bakery with his father, Song Yu, back in 1999, makes the candies. Growing up in Sokcho, Korea, dalgona candy was a treat. Ji Yu would get in trouble with her mother for saying she wanted to run her own stand and sell dalgona candy one day, according to Richard, but decades later, she did just that.
The recipe for dalgona candy is simple, but it requires precision, Richard says. “If you don’t do it perfectly, it’ll end up really bitter, or it won’t end up done at all.” Other Annandale bakeries plan to offer Squid Game-related treats: Breeze Bakery Cafe aims to have dalgona to sell sometime this week, and Manoa Bakery Cafe will offer Squid Game-themed food and drink items soon.