뽀끼 (ppokki) was one of those street foods that I have fond memories of in my childhood. It is essentially a melted sugar treat.
Ingredient: Sugar and baking soda (super simple!)
Directions: You put sugar on a large spoon or in a small pot to melt (make sure to stir often so it doesn’t burn), then as you see sugar melting and becoming light yellow, you add some baking soda which will make it puff up. You stir some more and when it becomes light brown, you take it off the heat, put on a flat surface and flatten it with something. It cools down quickly into a flat sugar candy. There’s nothing more to it.
So…why the nostalgia? After all, I can practically make this every day in my own kitchen. The nostalgia is associate not only with the taste of the candy, but the experience of getting one of this when I was a child. There’s a reason why it is called ppokki, which somewhat means 뽑기 (ppopkki: draw, or pick out). The ppokki vendors of old usually operated out of a small tent. You go in and you pick a shape (these are like pancake or egg molders you would see nowadays). The vendors basically put a shape on your ppokki as they flatten the sugar candy. There were many shapes, some really simple like circles or squares, others more elaborate such as stars or shape of a bike or something like that. The simple ones were cheaper and smaller and you get them for your sweet tooth. The more complex ones were little more expensive, but if you were able to eat around the shape so that you can keep the shape without breaking the whole candy (this is where pick out/draw meaning comes from), you got to have a smaller ppokki for free! Keeping the shape on your candy was not as easy as it sounds. You can try on your own and see how it works for you.
Of course, another reason for nostalgia is in that I had to often sneak around to get this treat. My parents were not very approving of these street vendors. In those days, they did not use sugar and baking soda as those were expensive ingredients. They would use cheap ingredients such as saccharine and baking soda substitutes. My parents were not proponent of me eating so much sugar, but they were willing to let me make this on my own if that would stop me from going to these street vendors. Unfortunately what they probably never realized was that at home, I did not get to experience the thrill of getting another ppokki by maintaining shape as I ate my first one.
If you can read Korean, I found a page with a detailed instruction on how to make it with accompanying pictures!