The next time you’re in Seoul, try taking a bite of their kkul-tarae, a sweet snack sold along the streets of Myeongdong and Insadong. Kkul-tarae (꿀타래 translated as “honey skein”), also called Korean court cake, is a South Korean variation of the Dragon’s beard dessert that originated in China.
Many vendors turn such simple ingredients like honey and corn starch into a fantastic dessert with rapid movements. The 16,384 stretched strands of silky honey thread are loaded with nuts, chocolate, and other tasty combinations. This delicate candy melts in your mouth, which can be pretty addictive.
A dessert that’s also entertainment? The fun comes from watching kkul-tarae makers in action, stretching the honey puck into extremely thin threads right in front of you. The vendors are always bubbly and talkative to sightseers. An excellent place to see the dessert making is in Insadong, Seoul.
Back in the day, kkul-tarae is advertised as a dessert eaten by Korean kings. However, this story originates from a misleading assumption when a TV show discussed where the snack originated from, asserting that it was a dessert enjoyed by kings, but they never really stated which king. People assumed it must have been Korean kings, so it was advertised as such from then on. In actuality, kkul-tarae is only about 30 years old, emerging in Insandong in the 1990s. The name itself was trademarked on November 7th of 2000 with the intention of selling a dessert that’s similar to Dragon’s beard candy in Korea.
How to Make Kkul-tarae at Home
- 1000g / 2.2lb of sugar
- 100g / 3.5oz maltose or light corn syrup
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 500ml / 2 cups of water
- 3-4 cups of corn starch or rice flour to dust
- 2-3 cups peanuts
- saucepan (big enough to fit the ingredients)
- candy thermometer
- pastry brush
- silicone doughnut baking molds or round disposable plastic containers
- Pour in the sugar, corn syrup, water, and vinegar into the saucepan and clip on a candy thermometer to the side.
- Turn on the stove to medium-high heat (133°C / 271°F) and keep the cooking time within 20-25 minutes. *Don’t stir the syrup to avoid the formation of sugar crystals.
- Turn off the heat when the temperature hits 132°C or 269°F, it’ll hit the required temperature on its own.
- Take the syrup off the heat and let it cool down to 100°C or 212°F if you’re using plastic molding, but if you’re using silicone baking molds, then you can immediately pour the syrup.
- Allow the mixture to cool down completely. Don’t put it inside the fridge, as it might disrupt crystal formation.
For the Pulling
- Place the cornstarch or rice flour in a dry pan.
- Roast for 10 minutes on low-medium heat.
- Set aside to cool.
- Dry roast the peanuts until cooked.
- After roasting, chop finely with a food processor, blender, or knife. You’ll want to not turn it into dust or powder-like.
- Set aside.
Making Dragon’s Beard
- You will have to punch a hole into your puck if it doesn’t have one. The goal is to get a ring.
- Dip the ring into the cornstarch. Be sure to get an even coat. Dipping and coating the candy with cornstarch keeps the strands separate and prevents them from sticking.
- Keep working it with your hands until it starts to bend to your will.
- Slowly pull the ring while ensuring it has an even thickness all around the band. Dip it back into the cornstarch to coat. Work it until you have around four times the size of the original ring.
- Create a figure 8 and fold so that you now have two strands or rings. Make sure to dip it again into the cornstarch.
- Work the strands until you achieve a size where you can create another figure 8 and fold again to get four strands. Dip again into cornstarch.
- Continue working the strands and repeating the folding instructions above. You’ll have to do this another eight times, making it a total of 11.
- After creating 11 folds, you’ll have around 2048 strands. You may stop at this point, but if you like finer strands, you can do three more folds to achieve a strand count of 16,384.
Putting the Filling
- Lay the Dragon’s beard on a flat surface that’s dusted with cornstarch. This helps keep each strand separated and frees your hands for the next step.
- Tear off about four inches of the beard’s section so you can put the filling in. You’ll have to tear it off and not cut, as cutting might cause it to merge, which you don’t want happening.
- Using a spoon, place some chopped peanuts in the middle of the four-inch section, fold the beard in half then roll it up.