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Monnani Kkwabaegi offers a Korean donut twist

Served warm with toppings including sugar, ube, matcha, and… cheddar?

Kkwabaegi flavors include matcha green tea (top) and cheddar cheese (bottom)
Kkwabaegi flavors include matcha green tea (top) and cheddar cheese (bottom)

Would a donut by any other shape taste as sweet? A new food addition to the Zion Market food court makes the case that’s an emphatic yes. Unless, that is, you prefer it salty and cheesy.

Monnani Kkwabaegi recently moved in to the Convoy District supermarket, introducing San Diego to a Korean brand whose name is nearly as fun to spell as it is to pronounce. Turns out, kkwabaegi [kwá-beh-ghee] is a Korean style of twisted donut.

Place

Monnani Kkwabaegi

7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego

Yes, plenty of local donut shops offer the likes of donut twists and (my favorite) French crullers. But I’ve yet to see anything quite like kkwabaegi. The irregular-looking donuts come in a pretty loose twist, more closely resembling a lapel ribbon than a braid or a hank of yarn. But it’s a couple other traits that immediately stand out once I start eating the things.

It’s pretty easy to find the Monnani counter: just keep going all the way to the right once you enter the store. It offers six different kkwabaegi flavors, charging $450 for two, or $12 for all six. All the donuts get a dusting of sugar on one side; the sugar donut gets it on the other side too, while the cinnamon and sugar kkwabaegi received the churro treatment. Others receive a different powdery coat; whether crushed Oreo wafers, ube powder, or matcha green tea.

A new counter in the Zion Market food court

The most surprising flavor would definitely be that powdered cheddar cheese flavor, which adds a salty element I’ve yet to experience in a donut context, and seems primed to elicit a love it or hate it response. Between the two kids I brought along as auxiliary taste testers, one refused to eat past the first bite. The other compared its flavor to Cheeto’s (the highest of praises).

As tie-breaker, I just liked it enough that I might eventually come to love the uniquely salty, sweet, and umami donut, though I would never dunk it in my coffee. Which is otherwise a benefit to shaping fried dough in an oblong twist.

Kkwabaegi flavors include Oreo (top) and sugar (bottom)

But my greatest praises of these kkwbaegi have nothing to do with their shape, nor toppings. Most obvious is that they’re made to order, meaning freshly fried and still warm when you eat them. That’s something you can only get from American donut shops when you show up at exactly the right time.

Most distinctive is that they’re made with a specific, imported flour blend said to rely on glutinous rice flour, which gives the kkwabaegi an elastic texture not dissimilar to another recent donut import: the mochinut. Eaten warm, the airy, raised dough kkwabaegi breaks down to an almost creamy finish.

If nothing else, here’s proof that it’s great to have donut options. Cheesy or otherwise.

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Kkwabaegi flavors include matcha green tea (top) and cheddar cheese (bottom)
Kkwabaegi flavors include matcha green tea (top) and cheddar cheese (bottom)

Would a donut by any other shape taste as sweet? A new food addition to the Zion Market food court makes the case that’s an emphatic yes. Unless, that is, you prefer it salty and cheesy.

Monnani Kkwabaegi recently moved in to the Convoy District supermarket, introducing San Diego to a Korean brand whose name is nearly as fun to spell as it is to pronounce. Turns out, kkwabaegi [kwá-beh-ghee] is a Korean style of twisted donut.

Place

Monnani Kkwabaegi

7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego

Yes, plenty of local donut shops offer the likes of donut twists and (my favorite) French crullers. But I’ve yet to see anything quite like kkwabaegi. The irregular-looking donuts come in a pretty loose twist, more closely resembling a lapel ribbon than a braid or a hank of yarn. But it’s a couple other traits that immediately stand out once I start eating the things.

It’s pretty easy to find the Monnani counter: just keep going all the way to the right once you enter the store. It offers six different kkwabaegi flavors, charging $450 for two, or $12 for all six. All the donuts get a dusting of sugar on one side; the sugar donut gets it on the other side too, while the cinnamon and sugar kkwabaegi received the churro treatment. Others receive a different powdery coat; whether crushed Oreo wafers, ube powder, or matcha green tea.

A new counter in the Zion Market food court

The most surprising flavor would definitely be that powdered cheddar cheese flavor, which adds a salty element I’ve yet to experience in a donut context, and seems primed to elicit a love it or hate it response. Between the two kids I brought along as auxiliary taste testers, one refused to eat past the first bite. The other compared its flavor to Cheeto’s (the highest of praises).

As tie-breaker, I just liked it enough that I might eventually come to love the uniquely salty, sweet, and umami donut, though I would never dunk it in my coffee. Which is otherwise a benefit to shaping fried dough in an oblong twist.

Kkwabaegi flavors include Oreo (top) and sugar (bottom)

But my greatest praises of these kkwbaegi have nothing to do with their shape, nor toppings. Most obvious is that they’re made to order, meaning freshly fried and still warm when you eat them. That’s something you can only get from American donut shops when you show up at exactly the right time.

Most distinctive is that they’re made with a specific, imported flour blend said to rely on glutinous rice flour, which gives the kkwabaegi an elastic texture not dissimilar to another recent donut import: the mochinut. Eaten warm, the airy, raised dough kkwabaegi breaks down to an almost creamy finish.

If nothing else, here’s proof that it’s great to have donut options. Cheesy or otherwise.

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