Not sure what to get your homesick Korean friend with a sweet tooth? Try a box of hodo kwaja or walnut cakes, little walnut-shaped pastries filled with sweet red bean filling and a big fat roasted walnut chunk. In Korea, hodo kwaja are a popular street snack during the harsh winters, and one can often see families buying large bagsful of steaming cakes and passing them out to eager children. The good news is that it's not just for Korean kids anymore.
Recently opened in the very back of Koreatown's Zion Market is the lastest U.S. branch of Cocohodo, a boutique bakery that specializes in the little walnut pastries (there's also another store in Buena Park that's been open since February).
As a snack food, these tiny bites are extremely addictive -- like most Korean desserts, they aren't too sugary -- but boast a creamy rich filling and a crisp outer pastry shell, along with the crunch of a hot walnut. They're also made on the premises -- so they arrive piping, mouth-scaldingly hot. Go ahead, try not to burn you mouth.
In the back of the space, a woman operates an elaborate machine that bakes, fills and wraps the hodo kwaja in paper (you can watch a video of it in action here). Customers can order snack-sized bags or have their pastries packed into fancy gift boxes that look an awful lot like something from See's Candy. 12 pieces for $5 is a pretty fantastic deal for these high-end baked goods, even if we're not exactly experiencing a freezing Korean winter right now. Next time you're looking for a way to round out your KBBQ dinner (and don't feel like shaved ice) then stop by Cocohodo and pick up a bag.
Cocohodo: 3500 W 6th St., Ste. 3, Los Angeles; (213) 382-8943.
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