Mashed Potato-Filled Walnut Cakes - Gastro Obscura


Mashed Potato-Filled Walnut Cakes

Korean hodu kwaja is normally stuffed with red bean paste, but one bakery in Toronto slips in a delicious surprise.

Hodu kwaja is a street food staple in South Korea, the kind of thing you might grab as a snack on your way home from school, or stop for during a long road trip. Shaped like walnuts, the small pastries have a crisp, golden-brown interior that cracks (much more easily than a real walnut) to reveal a soft cake interior.

At the heart of most versions of hodu kwaja is a dollop of sweetened red bean paste, the quintessential Asian pastry filling. In Toronto’s Koreatown neighborhood, however, one bakery offers an unexpected filling: mashed potatoes. At Hodo Kwaja (a variant spelling of the treat’s name), some of the cakes are packed with a rich blend of potatoes and walnuts or potatoes and almonds. The result is creamy, chewy, and luxurious.

The process of making walnut cakes has evolved over the years, with machines and waffle iron–like molds now capable of producing impossibly soft and perfectly browned cakes by the dozens. You can see this process up close at the Toronto bakery, which places its machine in the front of the store. Every day (except Sunday), the multi-armed apparatus fills the molds with batter, bean paste, and potatoes, then shapes and bakes everything into its perfect nutty form. The walnut cakes are typically baked from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., then again from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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