Residence: Seoul, Kora
Date of Performance/Collection: 14 April 2020
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English
Original Script: 달고나커피
The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer. It was conducted in Korean, and was since translated.
Informant: Dalgona coffee is a new viral recipe. Dalgona is the name of popular street candy in Korea, and the coffee is named after that because of the similar taste and color to the candy. So the recipe was first made in Korea, but you see people everywhere make the thing now.
Interviewer: Can you describe the recipe?
Informant: You mix sugar and instant coffee power, about the same ratio. You add a spoon of hot water, and blend everything. This is the key point, you have to like, really mix it. Some say it’s about 400 whips, but it’s more like 4000 if you’re using no electric utensils. Anyways after you mix it for like 10 fish minutes, the mixture’s gonna be really thick and have this beige color, which is the dalgona color. You pour a glass of milk, and drop that mixture on top. You mix the two and drink it.
Interviewer: Where did this recipe originate?
Informant: It wasn’t a thing until like, this year, once the stay at home order started. Koreans were just bored, and was looking for something to do I guess. It’s kind of the perfect thing to make in quarantine. This recipe requires a lot of manual labor, that’s the kind of stuff you need to distract yourself. And the coffee is delicious, so there’s that.
Interviewer: Why do you think the recipe became viral? Dalgona isn’t a widely known candy anywhere outside Korea.
Informant: I think it’s because everyone’s bored everywhere right now. No matter what nationality, people just want something to do. And with stuff like TikTok and Twitter, anything can be viral globally now.
The informant is a barista in Seoul, Korea. The recipe preexisted in different cultures, most notably in Macao. But around January of 2020, the recipe became a viral trend amongst Korean Twitter users, and it has since spread all over the world under the name ‘Dalgona Coffee’. On social media apps like Tiktok, making this coffee has gotten viral- under hashtag “dalgonacoffee” there are 280 million views on Tiktok, as of April 2020, and recreating this recipe has since become a viral challenge. Many cafes in Korea have since started actually selling this coffee, including the very cafe that my informant works at.
The conversation took place over the phone, and the informant was alone in his apartment during the talk, in a comfortable environment.
I think this recipe had all the perfect elements to go viral. It’s extremely easy to make, and there’s just the right amount of mundane labor to keep you distracted, but not enough to tire you out too much. It’s a delicious coffee too, so it only made sense that people around the world took part in this challenge.