This past weekend we ventured a few subway stops south to the city of Cheonan in the South Chungcheong province. We had two goals in mind: visit the big Buddha and eat walnut cakes. We accomplished both of these!
Cheonan is perhaps best known as the originating place of the walnut cake, or hodugwaja (호두과자). It is a popular snack in Korea which consists of a small bite sized Korean cake with a walnut and red bean paste filling. People like to bring a little bag of these sweet snacks on long trips, and you can find stands selling them at train stations and bus terminals across the country. The warm gooey red bean paste also make them a great snack in the wintertime.
Hodugwaja are one of Sam’s personal favourites and he has been known to devour an entire bag of them when I wasn’t looking. Sometimes our little bag of treats doesn’t even make it onto the the train – he just gobbles them up while we’re waiting on the platform.
You won’t have to look too hard to find walnut cakes in Cheonan. Hodugwaja shops can be found all over the city, sometimes only a few stores away from each other. Most places bake the walnut cakes fresh on site, so you can watch the whole process unfold before your eyes in an assembly line method of production. The whole process starts with a person placing half a walnut in a cast iron mold. The batter is then poured into the mold with a gob of the red bean paste in the middle. The cake bakes slowly as the rest of the line advances, and a few minutes later you have a warm walnut shaped snack ready to be enjoyed. Sam and I have tried hodugwaja on different occasions across Korea, but they have never tasted as good as they did baked fresh in their city of origin!
You can expect to pay 2,000 won (which is just under $2) for a bag with 10 of these bite sized treats. Bon appetit!