They look like walnuts — or brains, if that’s your thing.
  • They look like walnuts — or brains, if that’s your thing.
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7655 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa

I hit the food court at Zion Market recently. The large Korean supermarket in Kearny Mesa has a great number of distinct little businesses under its roof, and I cruised the pan-Asian area for a few minutes before picking up a decent noodle stir fry. But what really caught my attention was a booth advertising walnut pastries.

Cocohodo, it’s called, and by the name you might think there’s something chocolaty involved, but that’s not the case. These things go by the Korean name hodo kwaja, and a little research tells me they’re a popular South Korean street treat designed around walnut and sweet red-bean paste.

Sold in gift boxes. Though be prepared to explain yourself.

I wondered for a moment whether these could be considered gluten free, but no. They’re made using flour, and the bean paste seems to be glutinous. They’re definitely cute, with pastry shells shaped like walnuts containing sweet innards. Or, if you prefer, like little brains filled with red, gooey goodness. Halloween is approaching, after all.

I picked up a small bag of nine for about four bucks, though were I heading to a housewarming or some other fête I might be inclined to pick up one of several snazzy-looking gift-box options ranging from $7.50 to $35.

They’re tasty, and definitely not like most desserts you’ll find in San Diego. The sweet red-bean paste seems a distant cousin of a chocolate truffle — not quite as rich or satisfying but great as an alternative for the chocolate averse. The pastry surrounding it comes off like a soft buckwheat crepe or maybe a thin, spongy waffle. These things are bite-size yet individually wrapped, which stopped me from just popping one after another into my mouth.

They also tend to be a little dry, suggesting that coffee might be in order. Cocohodo, a chain making its way deeper into Southern California’s Korean communities, offers single-origin coffees from Ethiopia and Guatemala. If you want to hang out for a bit, they also offer mochi, so following up your coffee and walnut pasty with a bite-size ice cream treat is an option.

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