Recently, my YouTube feed started to recommend a lot of videos of people trying making so-called ‘dalgona coffee’ (달고나 커피). And writing this post, I just had a cup of homemade dalgona coffee for the third time.
How on earth has it become a thing in South Korea now and how did I end up trying it too? Well… we think, it’s all because of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) issue…
Appearance of Dalgona Coffee
People are advised to follow social distancing, and self-isolate if necessary, to reduce the risk of contracting & spreading the new SARS-like virus. This means those who stick to the measures have become desperate to entertain themselves while they are home and ended up binge-watching TV and YouTube videos. And surely, one must have encountered this video from the KBS Entertain channel <신상출시 편스토랑/Stars Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant>:
Here, Korean actor Jeong Il-woo tries a glass of coffee at a local cafe in Macao as part of his research to come up with a new menu as part of the programme. He describes it has a similar taste to ‘ppopgi (뽑기)’ that he used to enjoy after school. Ppopgi is also known as ‘dalgona (달고나)’, where the trend and its name, dalgona coffee, come from.
What is Dalgona/Ppopgi?
Dalgona/ppopgi is basically honeycomb toffee, made of brown sugar and baking soda. Like the actor, many Koreans (including myself) have a shared childhood memory of having ppopgi on the street. The ppopgi stall in my old hometown always appeared on the way back home from school. Kids gathered around the stall as the owner was making dalgona, who we called grandpa. Each kid chose what shape they would like to stamp on their dalgona base. He had a great sales strategy as he offered another one for free to anyone who succeeds to break the ppopgi base to make a perfect shape of their choice without a crack. ✌ Its sweet caramel smell was often too irresistible to skip the challenge! The video below gives you an idea of how it is made:
Going back to the clip from the TV show featuring how to make the coffee, since then, YouTubers have produced videos of their takes on dalgona coffee. I was also curious, especially since it didn’t look difficult at all to try myself.
If you type dalgona coffee or 달고나 커피 on YouTube, you will see an endless list of videos, including Korean celebrities’ channels like this:
How to make dalgona coffee (달고나 커피):
Instant coffee ground (americano, sugar-free)
Milk (best chilled)
How to make dalgona coffee:
1. In a mixing bowl, add instant coffee, sugar, and boiling water in a 1:1:1 ratio (i.e. 1 tbsp of each ingredient). Stir well so that the coffee and sugar dissolve in the water.
2. Whisk the mixture well, until its colour becomes golden brown. This takes a long time – for me, it took 20 minutes by hand. When ready, it should stay relatively thick and firm on the spoon/mixer, like a meringue peak.
3. Pour the chilled milk in a glass – and then pour your coffee mixture over the top.
*Key to remember is the 1:1:1 ratio, but there are no exact amounts to this recipe. 1-tbsp produces 1 glass, so add an extra tbsp per person – note, that it was more difficult to create the foamy effect easily with just 1tbsp, so it is always better to make for 2 or more people!
Reactions – and how much milk to add…
Although the common phrase tagging along with dalgona coffee posts or videos is that it requires stirring the mix 400 times, it never worked for me and the real number is usually much higher. In fact, some people say they had to stir 4,000 times until seeing the soft, creamy dalgona coffee foam! So it’s not just you who struggle to see the successful result and who doubt whether this is going all right. It took easily 20 minutes for me to get the right foam when I tried it by hand!
As I had the first sip of dalgona coffee I made for the first time, I could feel both a caffeine rush and a sugar rush. I poured the foam as much as I poured milk, so it was going to be strong to start. Besides, I didn’t stir the layers thoroughly enough, partially because I wanted to taste the foam as its own. This might have been a mistake. My later attempts had considerably more milk over the coffee foam and very good stirring before a sip. If you’re not good at dealing with caffeine, don’t make a mistake I made the first time!
I’ve also found a recipe for ppopgi (dalgona) written in English from this blog, in case you want to try the aforementioned Korean street food. Enjoy STAYING HOME as much as you can (e.g. making dalgona coffee), while the coronavirus pandemic hopefully calms down soon!