Memories of Korea: Hodo Kwaja 호도과자 / by Alice Zhao


Hodo Kwaja, Korean Walnut CakesHodo Kwaja (호도과자)

It seems like it's been a nostalgic couple weeks for us here in the Zhao household. Today's photoshoot took me back to my time in South Korea, where I spent a few months teaching English several years ago at a university in Jinju. This past Thursday, I had been having a terrible day and Jared, being the loving husband that he is, picked up some of my favorite Korean snacks from H-mart to cheer me up. As much as I wanted to eat them right away, I decided to savor the sweet walnut cakes until today so I could take a couple photos first.

While I thought about how to set up this shoot, I remembered I still had one of the few souvenirs that I saved from Korea. One of my students' fathers was a famous potter in the region. One Saturday, she took a few of us teachers on a field trip to her father's art studio where we spent the afternoon relaxing, eating and painting designs on cups that her father would later glaze and fire for us. And to our surprise we also got a bonus gift: bowls that were hand painted and stamped by her father to take home with us. It was one of the more special moments of my time spent in Korea and I thought it would be perfect for this nostalgic shoot.

a closeup of his insignia, his last name, Ahn

Hodo Kwaja (호도과자), literally "walnut pastries", were one of my favorite street vendor snacks. Inside these little walnut shaped pastries is a filling of either sweet red bean or mashed potatoes and crushed nuts. They're best eaten when it's fresh out of the griddle mold and still warm to the touch. It was the perfect snack for the two of us when we were walking around Seoul that winter. So I thought it was incredibly sweet of Jared to pick these up for me. I spent this afternoon reminiscing over my short stay in Korea and all the good times I had being mistaken for a native Korean yet only knowing how to communicate in hand motions and a 30 word deep vocabulary, most of which consisted of food terms and phrases like "how much is this?", "too expensive!" "more kalbi, please". To this day, I still get random emails from old students in incredibly incomprehensible English. But, it warms my heart every time. *sigh*

Hodo Kwaja, Korean Walnut CakesHodo Kwaja (호도과자)

If you'd like to make this at home, I found this recipe for hodo kwaja. However, I think these are one of those things I'd rather just purchase and enjoy.