Squid Game craze sparks creative twists

After a burnt first attempt, pastry chef Fiona Ting eventually perfected making Squid Game's viral Dalgona candy on her fourth try.

"It's fun, just technical and requires practice," says Ms Ting, 31, who now takes about three to five minutes to make each piece.

The Korean childhood honeycomb treat is made by melting sugar and stirring in baking soda. The molten mixture is poured on a silicone mat, flattened, imprinted with a mould and left to cool.

It has been basking in the glow of Netflix mega hit survival drama Squid Game, which has left fans fascinated by how to etch out the shapes pressed onto the candy without breaking it.

In the show, breakage means elimination and death. Success means survival.

For Ms Ting, her mission is slightly different. She will be making the candy as a sweet treat for diners at Andaz Singapore's Alley on 25 restaurant.

Since last month, the restaurant has been featuring cuisine from its various Andaz properties overseas during its weekend breakfast sessions. Next month, the restaurant will go "squid-crazy" with its Seoul theme.

She says: "We chose to feature the Dalgona candy since it is the iconic food-related game on the show. Even colleagues who have never watched the show recognise the candy immediately when I show it to them."

Other savvy business owners are also riding on the Squid Game high and banking on Dalgona candy for publicity.

Over the past fortnight, long lines have formed outside Brown Butter cafe at Forum The Shopping Mall to play its version of the Dalgona candy game - sans the death penalty, of course. Within two minutes, a pair of diners has to chisel out the shape (heart, star, circle - no umbrella) using a toothpick.

If they succeed, they get to draw a prize card to win a free iced latte or lemon cheesecake slice. If they fail, they have to post a photo of themselves with a lookalike of the show's black box coffin on Instagram or Facebook.

Some caveats to play the game, which runs till next Sunday, include dining-in on weekdays only and a minimum spending of $30 for a table of two.

So far, Brown Butter's director Pearlyn Tan, 30, observes there are more losers than winners.

But no matter. Response has been overwhelming, with the cafe producing about 200 candies daily.

It has also been invaluable marketing for the cafe. Ms Tan says: "We started this to create brand awareness since the two-person dine-in restrictions kicked off and we wanted people to remember us. Surprisingly, our TikTok video of the game went viral and it created a long queue with people wanting to try the game."

A profusion of Dalgona candy-making kits has also made its way to online platforms such as Lazada and Shopee for those who want to make their own at home. The sites also sell a plethora of Squid Game-related merchandise, geared towards the upcoming Halloween, such as the green tracksuits and numbered T-shirts worn by the players, as well as face masks.

Ms Olivia Lee, 39, founder of online boutique SoGoodK, which specialises in premium Korean products, also sells the kit on her platform. Priced at $35, it includes a metal plate, ladle, scraper and xylose sugar sourced from South Korea.

The South Korean chef, who is a Singapore permanent resident, says: "After watching Squid Game, I immediately started sourcing the materials that needed to be imported. I knew that it would intrigue our customer base, as many of them are trendy and fans of Korean products and entertainment.

"It is amazing to see how this nostalgic game I used to play as a child blows up in a TV series like this."

The dystopian drama is also the inspiration for cute macarons sold at halal-certified Annabella Patisserie.

A box of six macarons ($27.80) comprises three pink and three green macarons - referencing Squid Game's pink soldiers and the green tracksuits of the players.

The patisserie's director Annabella Sonwelly Soen, 41, has sold about 100 boxes since its debut earlier this month.

She has also rolled out a limited-edition offering, macarons shaped as the pink soldiers, which are not for sale, but up for grabs in a giveaway on Annabella Patisserie's Instagram account. She does not rule out doing other designs in the future, such as the creepy robot doll in the show, as well as of memorable players.

Ms Soen adds: "It's very interesting that a lot of big brands, such as Pepsi, Heineken and Marigold HL Milk, have ridden on the Squid Game craze for marketing purposes. I think everyone has to be creative in a challenging time like this."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 17, 2021, with the headline Squid Game craze sparks creative twists. Subscribe