Candy Craftsmanship: Korea's First Family of a Classic Confection



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In Chungju, South Korea, Bong-Seok Kang and his family carry on a generations-long tradition of a sweeter sort than most: they make yeot, a taffy-like candy that dates back more than 1,000 years. Originally a treat for the privileged classes, the stretchy confection is more popular than ever among everyone, and Kang’s authentic version is based on a 140-year-old family recipe. Hand-pulling the candy to get the perfect texture and making sure that his yeot is never too sweet is a legacy of craftsmanship that Kang values highly, and all it takes is one bite to see why.

This Great Big Story was inspired by Genesis.

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(energetic instrumental music) – [Narrator] In Chungju, South Korea, there is a family carrying on
a generations-long tradition of making yeot, an old school Korean treat that is still popular today. (speaks in foreign language) – [Narrator] Yeot dates
back more than 1,000 years to the Goryeo Dynasty. (speaks in foreign language) (playful instrumental music) (gentle instrumental music) (moves into lively instrumental music) (speaks in foreign language)

The Magic Of Candy Making



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Candy is a mesmerizing process that takes the utmost skill and patience to perfect. These two New York-based women are at the top of their craft.

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Producer: @vaughn
Salty Road: @saltyroad

Roni-Sue: @ronisuechocolates

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I don't think of myself as a woman making confectionery I just like to think of myself as making the best Solar toffee in the country it's kind of like in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory you know when she first bites into the truffle you know each flavor is very layered and really delivers a pretty complex experience and that really is a lot of fun for me in Chinese culture if you ever go to a funeral they always have some sort of candy usually like a hard candy and the idea is that it takes away some of the bitterness of life I like that idea of let yourself indulge and in these little relief of reality if you're gonna indulge in something indulge in the best thing that you could possibly get when I was little I was obsessed with candy all the time like I used to go to the craft store and right next to the cake decorating aisle there's the candy making aisle and when I found out that like humans actually made candy I like freaked out and I started making stuff as soon as I could whenever I thought of solar Kathy I always remembered it being like artificially flavored and just way too sweet no one was doing a higher-end version of the candy I started playing around with it I just added really good ingredients to flavor the candy and it tasted really different than the saltwater taffy that I had remembered making solar taffies super tactile especially because the way that we make it each recipe is unique to be able to get the whole product cooled we cooled it on top of each other so that it will be the same temperature throughout its super Goldilocks style like you just have to be familiar with each recipe and you know what it should be like and then we wait until it reads about like 98 degrees and then we're able to pull the taffy on the taffy puller it can be very meditative so the whole idea of what the taffy puller is doing is it Airy it's pushing air into the product you know I used to pull the taffy by hands back in the day I had seven pound batches which doesn't really sound like a lot but after about 15 minutes of pulling by hand it was exhausting that's when I bought Rosie from a carnie somewhere I can't remember where I heard he was but he was funny we do our best and because we do something that is so small-batch there are little sort of variances all in all I think it's sort of worth it just because it's such a special product most saltwater taffy places they'll make one white batch or a plain batch and then they'll flavor it with artificial colors and flavors what makes salty roads so different is that we use real ingredients to flavor the candy so real vanilla bean is real fruit purees ground spices and we use large green sea salt so it's sort of a signature crunch it also brings out the natural flavorings that we use and it balances the sweetness when I'm coming up with ideas I want to try to figure something out that's accessible but also offbeat and super tasty so for some mores the baked flavor is really difficult unless you're going to use artificial flavors cookie butter and was sort of this like workaround that we were able to have that flavor came through with taffy it's a weird medium because we have to cook it to such a high temperature as we cook it to 250 82 degrees the cooling table has cold water running through the bottom of it and the topics with a stainless steel and so you have to know how it's supposed to feel throughout the entire process you're taking all these raw ingredients just like any kind of cooking or any any when you make anything you can call them artists you can call them makers you can call them whatever but I think there's something really amazing and special and sort of magical about taking these raw ingredients and then creating something else and through that process you get to see things change and smell them change and feel them change and it makes the world make sense a little bit for me I have survived for seven years having a manufacturing business in New York City and making solar taffy so I feel like I'm pretty scrappy and I just want to make sure honestly that I can take care of the people that work for me and still make a really good solid product some saltwater taffy makers look at our product and they think that because we don't use artificial flavors and colors it's not actually saltwater taffy which is not true but you know keeps looking whatever they want now haha as long as it tastes good I don't really care what they call it the batch roller just simply turns it into a cylinder and then we'll take the cylinder and hand pull it into Harriett the are cutting and wrapping machine confectionary is kind of a trip because if you go like old school it's mostly older white men for a little bit I was working with a confectionery scientist who's a who's a woman and she brought me to some of these like corporate events and they just had no interest in me like at all we have for the last three years I think only have had women it's not philosophy it's just like we hire the most badass people that we can hire and it just so happens that the last three years it's only been women I don't think of myself as a woman and like making confectionery I just like to think of myself as making the best solar cafe in the country my name is Marissa and I make solar tapping there's a certain face that everyone makes you know when they taste it they pop it in their mouth and then all of a sudden their eyes kind of widen and they put their hand to their mouth you have a keep themselves from drooling but does actually physically lock into your pleasure receptors just like drugs more better mo better toffee is pretty simple to make it's hard to make right even though there's not many ingredients it's really three things it's really good quality butter I use an 83 or 84 percent butterfat butter sugar and sea salt that's all that goes in it butter crunch toffee is again deceptively simple you know you just put the butter in there and the sugar and the salt and start stirring it but really goes through several transformations along the way and you have to put it over a really high heat and it has to be stirred pretty much continuously for 40 minutes or so that it takes to cook it after I'm in business for a few years I realized turns out I'm a control freak how could it be that if I didn't touch it myself you know if I wasn't the one who started from starting to finish could it really be mine [Applause] one of the things that really sets me apart I think from mass-produced chocolates or confections you know even from other confectioner's you know who make things by hand I want it to be very clear what you're tasting and I wanted to be a full experience I grew up in a really small town in southern New Jersey and right near the school was a candy store those guys had like a license to print money when I was a kid my mom really encouraged me to try enjoying myself in the kitchen and she encouraged me to bake things so when I was a kid Halloween was you know the big thing but we used to just range around the neighborhood as much as we wanted the giant you know grocery sacks and give some of it up to the parents but I would always you know stash a little bit under the bed first for myself all my favorites somebody gave you an apple I've actually been making chocolate for 30 years having taken a after-school program course at the local high school it wasn't until I has gone back to school as a returning learner at NYU I suddenly took a look around and I said hey you know I've been thinking I would do this one day and so if not now than when I had a little bit of trepidation about kind of breaking into the food industry I have to say that whenever I'm at an event or industry gathering of any sort hands-down I'm always being oldest person in the room because you know I can't cook pretty late as an entrepreneur you really need to do all the things you really have to do everything from the ground up that was both challenging and lightning and ultimately fun I've had many jobs in my life and before opening Ronnie Sue's I worked for ten years for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence at on Long Island one of my Jobs was to go to the shelter once or twice a week and they would always bring a nice spread of truffles of butter crunch toffee and that sort of thing to the shelter and just you know really cheered everyone up I also brought it into the office whenever I made it and it's a good way to win friends and influence people there's almost no one that doesn't like chocolate and candy especially butter crunch toffee is something that folks really have a deep taste memory of especially here in the US a lot of people really have a thing for it so that was always a good way to break the ice opening Ronnie Sue's I felt like I wanted to have some kind of little tagline that encapsulated what my philosophy was for my product I came up with simple on the outside special on the inside put my money where your mouth is that's another the ingredients the treatment of those ingredients is really where the special part comes in it may look deceptively simple on the outside you know just a smooth little bonbon but when you bite into it it's very special at any time I think there's something really sort of magical about taking these raw ingredients and then creating something else candy making and confectionary work is a creative outlet when you make anything you get to see things change and smell them change and feel them change really at this point I think this is probably my last four years it makes the world make sense a little bit for me for me [Applause] you