[Albany] Wojia Hunan Cuisine

Wojia Hunan just opened on San Pablo south of Solano, in the old Golden Bowl site. I had lunch there, hoping to try Hunan cuisine, and had a strange (to me) dish: steamed spareribs with sticky rice and corn.


I liked the flavors, five-spice mostly. The texture was very gelatinous, to the point where I couldn’t tell whether I was eating the rice or connective tissue. It was interesting to see a menu that had only a few dishes that I recognized, and I’ll be back. Menu posted here:
https://www.hungryonion.org/t/regional-chinese-roundup-3-0-sf-bay-area/4640/224?u=ernie_in_berkeley

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Your photo of spare ribs over rice with corn reminds me of a similar dish at Imperial Soup but in bamboo.

Google Photos

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Cool! Great to see Hunan food in your hood!

Was there a lot of heat? Pumping a recipe of that dish through google translate indicates lots of seasonings including laoganma sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, fermented fava and chili paste (doubanjiang)

https://www.xiangha.com/caipu/77112879.html

My version wasn’t hot at all. I asked the waitress if it was spicy, and when she said yes I asked if it could be made a little less spicy. They must have understood me to mean not spicy. I also didn’t see any corn. Next time I’ll just take my chances and leave the spice level to the chef.

Back again for lunch today. Sauteed pork, enoki, woodear and egg. Savory and satisfying.

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Stopped by Wojia last night .
Had 3 Things:
Sesame Bread / It was much fluffier than what I have had in the past. Seemed to me that it was steamed and then Pan fried? Tasty but would have liked more Sesame Seeds

Griddle Cooked Stir-fried Spicy Shrimp and Pork Ribs / Very much like Explosive Chili Preparations at many Szechuan Places. Seemed like the same Dish to me and was very good. Bit disappointed because I was hoping for a more exclusively Hunan Dish. I also had Lily bulb as an ingredient, first time I have seen it used in a Restaurant

Fried Glutinous Rice Ball / The most unusual Dish of the three. They were basically Tang Yuan(Sweet Black Sesame Dumplings) that had been fried instead of boiled and then Stir Fried with Ginger, Garlic and Dry Chili Pepper. Very cool contrasts in Textures and Flavors.

Super nice folks patient and helpful.

We will be back armed with more research on Hunan Dishes.

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Whoa, that sounds incredible.

Here is a recipe for sesame bread (zhima da bing), no steaming mentioned but it looks less fluffy than you describe and certainly less fluffy then the one Former China Village chefs make.

I have actually made these before. The One at Wojia was about 2.5" thick in the Center, thinner on the Edge 1.5" or so. The Texture and Shape really looked like there was Steam and Chemical leaveners in addition to Yeast used.

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Last year a bunch of us got together at Wojia, here are the reports.

Soleil Ho had plenty of positive things to say in her Chronicle review

A reader tipped me off to the place via email, though she entreated me to never write about it.

Why? The place isn’t so small that they can’t take the crowds.

Ho’s predecessor had a habit of ordering some safe non-specialties at Chinese restaurants, so perhaps Barbara worried a review would draw in crowds looking for potstickers and fried rice, ultimately leading to a watering down of the menu/dishes. The abandonment of stars, which can lead a lazy reader to a restaurant without reading an article, preclude that possibility here—- Soleil is pretty clear about what Wojia is all about.

I liked Ho’s review a lot, btw. It came across as informed about Hunan cuisine, yet honest about the mysteries of ordering some of the more contemporary dishes there. Her commentary about the two types of fried potatoes matched our HO-down’s experience (whoops, looks like I forgot to post a review, sorry @ernie_in_berkeley!). As part of her work so far, it’s a straightforward review after a string of reviews with politico-cultural commentary, yet at the same time is revolutionary in showing she’ll be reviewing places Bauer would never have stepped into.

We were there Friday night and ordered the potatoes for the first time. The waitress asked if we ordered them because of the review, apparently a lot of people have been ordering them since the review came out. We hadn’t read the review but husband ordered them because they sounded interesting. The potatoes were fantastic, crunchy spicy full of flavor. We also ordered the toothpick lamb which I thought was not as good as previous visits (husband thought it was good though) and we ordered the spicy tofu with meatballs, which is basically like MaPo tofu. The spicy tofu with meatballs, which we regularly order, was exquisite- well balanced rich spicy numbing sauce with perfectly creamy tofu and delicious meatballs.

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Yeah, I almost stopped reading her reviews because I couldn’t get a feel for whether any of the restaurants were actually worth eating at as so little of the reviews were about the food. This was the first one that had useful information.

I wouldn’t mind if someone (else!) started a thread about Soleil Ho’s reviews. I have several thoughts (not especially positive), but I’m hesitant to post first…

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold