Cocohodo: Korean Walnut Pastries In OC's Koreatown
Usually, Asian trends start in LA and then migrate south to the smaller enclaves in Orange County. LA's Koreatown is approximately a bazillion times larger than OC's ever-expanding Koreatown, but that didn't stop Cocohodo, a dessert maker whose name inspires Pavlovian drooling among a certain subset of young Koreans, from opening their first U.S. shop in Buena Park.
The little treats are so popular that there's now a larger, more upscale-looking shop in Kaju Plaza at the northwest corner of Garden Grove Boulevard and Magnolia Street in Garden Grove, where the H-Mart is. You walk in and there is the usual menu of Asian tea drinks (boba, grain tea, etc.) and a display full of empty boxes.
This is because a Cocohodo--technically called a hodo kwajja in Korean--fades quickly after it's made. It's a walnut-shaped sponge pastry that encloses a sweet, thick sugar with a lot of brown sugar and walnut flavoring, which itself enrobes a walnut half. It's a great deal nicer than it sounds--the filling is actually not overwhelmingly sweet, there's enough gluten in the cake that it doesn't split apart in your hand, and it's substantial enough that you'll want to eat it in two bites.
There's also the price: $5 for 12 pastries. When you order them, someone will go start the hodo kwajja machine, which looks like a Space Age version of the filled pancake machine that sits outside Arirang Market in the winter; as the cakes come off the press, they're wrapped individually and rushed to you. Try to eat one while it's still warm; you'll see why so many people go crazy for them.
Cocohodo is located at 5327 Beach Blvd., Buena Park; 714-994-5965 and 8935 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove; 714-534-9200; cocohodo.co.kr (badly translated into English).