Covid-19 kickstarted a new posting frenzy on social media: the #dalgonacoffeechallenge. On Tiktok, the hashtag #dalgonacoffee reached more than 200 million views in just one month.
And it’s easy to understand why: dalgona coffee is easy to make and many people have the ingredients at home (no toilet paper required!). Just whip together instant coffee, sugar and hot water until it’s frothy, then dollop it over icy milk. Voilà. You’re a master chef.
Yet the trend has left many people in Korea, where dalgona comes from, in a confused state. Far from this frothy coffee trend, their fond memories of dalgona take them back to the candy street vendors of Korea.
Authentic dalgona is a toffee-like honeycomb, which became a favorite of children and adults alike in the 1960s, after the Korean War. You ate it off a stick like a lollipop, and could get a free one if you managed to eat around the fun shapes without breaking them.
Dalgona is made by boiling sugar and oil together, then adding baking soda to froth it up. The result is an airy, melt-in-your-mouth candy. Other countries have similar sweets by other names, if you’re trying to understand the flavor: honeycomb toffee, sponge toffee, cinder toffee, hokey pokey, or karume-yaki.
Perhaps the only connection between #dalgonacoffee and the authentic dalgona candy is the taste: sweet notes with bitter undertones.
But if you’ve been making dalgona wrong this entire time, never fear: the authentic version is even better.
How to Make Authentic Dalgona Coffee
The original dalgona coffee was created by Café Cha, an upscale cafe in Korea that quickly piqued demand with their tasty dalgona milky teas, coffee lattes, and baked goods. Soon K-pop stars like Serri from Del Shabet, as well as fashion and food influencers, were lining up to get their dalgona hit before the goodies sold out.
“All Koreans have memories of dalgona,” explains Cafe Cha’s co-founder Kenny Hong Kyoung-soo of the cafe’s popularity.“ As children, we queued up at the street stalls and ate the sticky toffee on sticks whenever we could afford it after school.”
To copy their authentic dalgona recipes, you prepare a latte or milky espresso tea, then top it with crushed dalgona candy.
The secret, says Hong, is to let the dalgona sit for 5–10 minutes, so it melts and seeps the flavors into your hot drink. You can also use the candy for baked goods: just pour it on before the candy hardens. Café Cha’s speciality is dalgona scones, which adds a delicious crunch to the scone’s soft texture.
Café Cha has been pushed into the spotlight since ‘dalgona’ became an internationally recognized word but they welcome the chance to introduce their beloved tradition to the world.
“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!”
Guest Post By Casey Marriott