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A bite of Seoul street food: Walnut Cakes

Hot walnut cakes

You’ll smell walnut cakes long before you see them. They smell like freshly baked cake and toasted nut. These traditional cakes are one of the best sweet Korean street foods out there – in my admittedly inexperienced opinion. They’re a cross between a donut hole and a pancake, and are filled with a small amount of walnut paste that makes them moist and flavorful.

Walnut cake filling

The most interesting thing about them is how they’re made. Batter is pipped down from a large bag or funnel using a small hose into a hot pan made of circular holes. Of course, you could make these by hand without the fancy piping equipment, but as a street vendor, speed is going to give you something of an edge. It actually looks a lot like an aebleskiver pan, but with both a top and a bottom side. The circular molds also have a walnut shell pattern, so the finished cakes look like nuts. Once the batter is in place, the walnut paste is dropped in and the lid is shut so the cakes can brown evenly. Eat the while they’re hot and you can get the best effect of crisp outside and soft center.

I saw these morning, noon and night. They go great with coffee if you can find them for a quick breakfast! Also, I’m not sure what the Korean name for these are, as most of the signs I saw simply said “walnut cakes.”

Walnut cake vendor

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  • Kalyn
    October 4, 2009

    Loving the posts about foods you’re finding in Korea (and also very impressed with your blogging-while-traveling skills!)

  • Hanna
    October 4, 2009

    Ahh, the Korean name is 호두과자 (you can see it on the bag in your first photo above). That roughly translates to “walnut cake/sweet”!

  • Anna
    October 4, 2009

    I saw something very similar in Hong Kong, but I didn’t notice any paste inside. Interesting!

  • C(h)ristine
    October 4, 2009

    like hanna says, they are called “hodo gwaja” in Korean–translating to walnut cookies/cakes. they sell them in Koreatown markets/bakeries in the US, but are BEST when eaten on the street, hot out of the pan! so glad you got a taste of these, I was about to recommend them to you.

  • SarahKim!
    October 4, 2009

    If you happen across the vendors for it, I suggest you try caramelized sweet potatoes (at least, that’s what I think it is from what I remember!). It may not seem too foreign, but it’s quite tasty! Also, if you feel a bit more daring, try the fishcake and soup. They are fishcakes on skewers, accompanied usually by a cup of the broth that it’s cooked in. The fishcake is savory, and the soup is a little spicy. Well, you may have no idea what I’m talking about, or maybe you won’t like it at all, but I grew up on that stuff and it always hits the spot for me! (I also suggest the pizza restaurants, the stranger sounding toppings are usually the best!) Good luck, and I hope you eat lots of delicious food!

  • Laura
    October 5, 2009

    That’s such a good idea – never heard of them before! I might have a go at making some of these, although naturally I’m going to tinker a bit and try adding my own twist to it!

  • Kelly
    October 5, 2009

    Totally facinating. Thanks for sharing the street food. I’ve never been anywhere that I’ve eaten any of it but I am always curious.

  • Jess
    October 5, 2009

    Hey, I actually found those in NYC and reviewed them!

    And that tornado potato looks amazing. Wish we had those here!

  • asji
    October 6, 2009

    Круто, что тут еще можно сказать.

  • Christa Owens
    October 6, 2009

    Love the smell of walnuts! it would be great of they have this in chocolate!

  • Michael
    October 7, 2009

    memories! loved eating these in korea!

  • FontSky
    October 7, 2009

    хорошая подборка)

  • Ну жесть конечно…

  • Kat
    October 19, 2010

    What is the recipe for these walnut cakes?

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  • » Blog Archive
    February 25, 2010

    […] fell in love with Korean walnut cakes when I lived in Koreatown in Toronto. While these  shown in the pics aren’t quite the same, […]

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