Thursday, October 21, 2010
Growing up as a little boy in Korea wasn’t the most glamorous or easiest of times. Our family wasn’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either. We had to work our way up from the ground up to where we are now and needless to say, I’m proud of and have so much respect for my parents. Both my mom and dad worked full time jobs and because no one could take care of me during the day, I spent a majority of my first few years at my grandparents’ or with my (then single) aunts.
Some of my happiest times as a little boy were from eating cheap street foods with my aunts when we used to roam about the city to pass the time. There are so many foods that bring back happy memories. In the winter, it was fire roasted Korean sweet potatoes that was cooked in a huge, metal garbage can. Any other days of the year, it was tteokbokki (떡볶이)/oden from the street carts. Pretty much – cheap, ready-to-eat foods. One particular food that brings back a lot of nostalgic memories is a Korean pastry called hodo kwaja (호도과자). It’s a walnut shaped cake that’s filled with sweet, red bean paste and walnuts.
I remember waiting for these to be made with my aunt during the cold, wintry days of Seoul. Of course, I’m trying to make it sound like I was a good, patient boy but let’s face it – I was probably complaining about how long it took and cold it was outside. After the pastries were cooked, the street vendor would pop them all out of the mold and generously stuff a big, paper bag. Fresh out of the mold, bleepin hot and enough to warm a cold, weary soul during the harsh winter. I still remember that taste and just how happy my aunt and I were sharing the sweets together while walking back home.
I haven’t been able to find that childhood taste in Atlanta but there are a couple of places (if there are others, please let me know!) that make this Korean treat fresh off the mold.
Mozart Bakery inside the H-Mart on Pleasant Hill Road makes them fresh and if you go during the early/afternoons, you should be able to grab some hot off the mold. Also, inside the H-Mart in Doraville (next to Shoya Izakaya) there’s a lady that makes hodo kwajas and bungeoppangs hot and fresh in the food court. You don’t really get a lot of pastries for the price like you would in Korea but it’s reasonable. The ones from Mozart tend to get hard as they cool off and sit inside the plastic bag so try to get them when they’re freshly made.
The awesome Alice of Eat a Duck I Must has written about this treat before in her blog post here so check out her post and the site if you don’t already. Oh, and if you’re ever in Toronto, Canada…you have to check this place out that makes hodo kwajas fresh. It’s the closest taste I’ve had to the ones made in Korea so far in North America.
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