Reports: Lunch at Wojia Hunan, Albany, CA 9/15/2018


#1

Sixteen of us met up for an excellent lunch at Wojia Hunan today. We spread out over two tables. I was at table 2, and we had 18 dishes:

Cold Appetizers
Edible Tree Fungus with vinegar & lime sauce
Dried Turnip with Chopped Chilies
Shredded Chicken with Green Onion Pepper Sauce

“Wows”
Chairman Mao Stew Pork Hock

“Impressive Dishes”
Laotan Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili
Fried Glutinous Rice Ball
Classic “Potato Strips on Street Corner”

Sizzling
House Special Sizzling Tentacles of Squid

Classic Dishes
Pickled Green Beans with Minced Pork
Country Style Fried Fish & Tofu

Fresh Greens
Sauteed Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli with Pork
Sauteed Celery, Agaric, Lily & Red Peppers
Sauteed Dried Tofu with Green Chives

Soup:
Minced Beef Tofu & Fresh Cilatro soup

“Classic Dishes”
Pickled Green Beans with Minced Pork
Country Style Fried Fish & Tofu

“Main Dishes”
Hunan Style Fried Noodles
Chinese Onion Pancake

I didn’t take photos, but a couple of people did and will probably post them here.


#2

I thought the only clunkers were the potatoes (basically, crinkle-cut fries with chili powder) and the Hunan fried noodles (not much flavor). Standouts for me were the stewed pork (deeply rich and fork-tender), the boiled fish (a surprising appearance by Sichuan peppercorns, the only dish that had them), tree fungus (wood ear, delicate earthy flavor), and the fried fish and tofu (fried to a nice crunch). With tax and tip, we paid $31.50 each.


#3

Receipt from table two


#4

That was table one, with all the people who arrived early. I didn’t save our check.


(Thomas Nash) #5

Thanks Ernie for arranging this. It was revelatory for me in learning what Hunan cooking is really all about. Photos from Table One with captions and my comments. Please correct if I mislabelled.


“Steamed” smoked meat (duck and pork). I thought this was too dry and only fail of the meal.


Fried glutinous rice balls. Fantastic, maybe best dish of all.


Sticky rice with corn and spareribs. Mild.


Chinese onion pancake?? Very bready and not compelling for me.


Smoked pork with dried radish. Magnificent.


Griddle sliced potato. Another favorite and not to be missed.


Chairman Mao braised pork hock. There is also a simple Mao braised pork. Very famous Hunan dish that Mao lived off of.


Steamed sliced flounder with peppers. Another wonderful classic Hunan dish.


Pork mushroom fungus egg. Nice light dish good for balance.


Sauteed cauliflower and pork.


Home style noodle. For me not at the level of, say, dan dan.


Cordyceps flower, clam, pork.


Daqian shrimp tea leaves.


(maria ascarrunz) #6

More pics, because I have them…

There was pork in just about every dish - which of course made me very happy. For me the standout was the smoked pork and dried radishes dish - just a great combo of textures and flavors. Loved our potato dish - essentially potato chips with ginger and sichuan peppercorns. This should be the next Lays flavor.

i actually felt almost every dish had a bit of sichuan peppercorn in it, which I did not know was a Hunanese thing. I love it, although my sister found the heat level a bit high on most of the dishes, and her favorite dish was the pork, mushroom, fungus with eggs, a mild dish but with so much flavor, and the eggs were perfect. It was probably tied with the chips as my 2nd favorite dish, and one I’d definitely get again.

I found the sticky rice and pork dish bland. The smoked combo of duck and pork was super funky, smelled like fertilizer. It was the one dish that most seemed not to love.

The fish was lovely, but a bit salty for me, and I’m a salt freak.

The pork hock was delicious. i was lucky enough to take a good portion of it home. (Thanks, everyone!)

The cordyseps flower chicken & clam dish was deceptive - apparently “cordyseps flower” is a very thin, spindly orange colored mushroom. The dish was good but the clams were hard to find.

i found the Chinese onion bread too bready as well, and boring.

The glutinous rice balls were addictive - a little salty, a little sweet, almost a little peanut butter-y. Another must-order-again.

Cauli was good, though not a standout, for me. The shrimp and tea leaf was good, but not something I’d need to order again.

I loved the noodles - so oily and spicy.

Thanks to Ernie for putting this together! Nice to see some faces from the past and meet new ones, especially our Fearless Leader - Sampson!


#7

I came in late so most of the time I had no idea what I was eating. So @ernie_in_berkeley thanks for sharing the names of the dish. I was at Ernie’s table 2 and we ordered so much that we had no place on the lazy susan to put the dishes. Overall the meal was good. I especially liked the pickled vegetable fish dish, in which the fish was cooked with perfect timing- still very tender in a hot broth. Spicy, tart, delicious.

and the stewed pork hock dish.

I also liked the squid (is there squid in Hunan?)

and the shredded chicken, and the wood ear vinegar dish.

$32 pp, for 18? courses? Get outta here!

Thanks to Hyperbowler’s persistance/ curiosity, he and I chatted with chef Zhang a bit after the meal. Hyperbowler had the piece of paper- the chef told us he cooked at a couple of pretty high end places in China, including a place in Luoyang in Henan. He also circled for us a number of what he’d consider as more distinctive Hunan dishes. Ask Hyperbowler for them. No off-menu specials, however.

The chef said normally its crowded in the weekend. He makes 50 of those stewed pork leg dishes the day before and finished cooking during the day. But today there’s a concert so all the students were missing.

Funny he asked us where we parked afterwards. After we told him we parked elsewhere he told us we could park in the lot next door. Hyperbowler got the charms.

Some of the other dishes on table 2 that Ernie mentioned. Too busy eating and only took pictures of those still remaining after an hour.


#8

Funny you mentioned peanut butter-y. I too also thought it was a little peanut butter-y. Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient…?


#9

Here are dishes the chef recommended and some notes about where he cooked (can someone translate?)


#10

That sticky rice with spareribs at table 1 was one of the dishes that I’d had in earlier visits, and I guess I should have warned that I didn’t really like it. The other dish that I’d had was the delicious pork mushroom fungus egg, which table 1 also ordered.

It looks like we ordered a fair number of the chef’s recommendations.

It was kind of fun to find a waiter there who I’ve seen at China Village, Ancient Sichuan and Sichuan Styles/King Tsin at times in the past. He seems to show up everywhere, at newly opened places.


#11

Some old hotels that were around it seems.

中国郑州亚西亚大酒店
http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-06-19/101413262042.shtml

中国洛阳旋宫大厦
http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_b363d7810101ct18.html


(maria ascarrunz) #12

i was thinking maybe sesame paste.


(maria ascarrunz) #13

a note: buttertart (of CH fame) linked me to a video about the cordyceps - known as “caterpillar fungus.” they look nothing like what we had, but actually like caterpillars. ours looked more like enokis, but orange, and now i’m thinking maybe the orange was from the chilis/chili oil in the dish?

although now i’m seeing that there are about 400 species of cordyceps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordyceps


(Mark Cohen) #14

The Fried Glutinous rice balls and the Ore-Ida crinkle potatoes in Hunan/spices were two dishes that left me wondering about “authenticity.” The former is usually a sweet dish - common enough in bakeries where sesame filled glutinous rice balls are deep fried. This was a sweet dish made savory with spices and sauce, and the rice balls I believe were not breaded or coated prior to frying (perhaps a brief deep fry followed by a stir fry). It had a great flavor, but in a brief online search, I couldn’t find anything like it in Hunan cuisine. The potato dish was one of a few on the menu as I recall. Using crinkle cuts seemed like a concession to perceived Western tastes. The usual way to do this is parboiled/fried potatoes in spices…The place overall had a great authentic feel to it, with signs in Chinese – some imitations of cultural revolution type signs, in a bit of self-mocking self promotion…Mark


(Therese) #15

Sorry to have missed such a banquet, but it looks like I’ll be making my way to Wojia Hunan sometime soon. Is the " Country Style Fried Fish & Tofu" the sauced dish pictured just before the fried glutinous rice balls?
And speaking of the rice balls, I noticed some similarities between this menu and Ping’s Bistro, from when I went in 2017


Including the fried glutinous rice balls and their presentation in a rattan basket and, as seen on yelp pictures, the glutinous rice cake with syrup dessert. I wonder if there is any connection or if these are trends in the Hunan restaurant business.


#16

I don’t think we have a picture of the Country Style Fried Fish & Tofu yet.


#17

I was wrong. At the end of Samson’s post above there’s a set of smaller photo links. The Country Style Fried Fish & Tofu is the brown dish at the lower left corner.


(Katy) #18

I have to say I loved those weird glutinous rice balls. Yes they did kind of taste peanut buttery…maybe as someone pointed out-sesame Paste?
Other standouts were the pork and pickled beans tho I think the vinegar made the chili really really over the top. The tree fungus and lime was a nice refreshing counterpointed the salt and oil.
The chive and tofu was also very enjoyable. I was lucky enough to take some of that home and guess what, it went on as a topping with some cheese on pizza the next day…fusion cooking at its best!
The stewed pork was also a winner…enormous dish and good for a crowd.
Loved the final dish when I was really too full - fish and pickled greens soup in an orange tingly schzuan peppercorn flavored broth. Delicious
Thanks for organizing Ernie and very nice to meet some fellow foodies.


(Ruth Lafler) #19

Definitely sesame paste. From the light color and semi-liquid texture, I wonder if he was actually using tahini rather than Chinese sesame paste.


#20

I think just black sesame alone will make the balls taste like black sesame tong yuans. they probably mix in some peanut fillings. someone should ask about peanut allergies next time they order.

These are the dishes ranged from ok to not so hot for me:

  • the fries- its perplexing. and others mentioned that.
  • fried fish and tofu. its ok. I just couldn’t tell the fish from the tofu visually that well. and its pretty annoying to bite into a mouthful full of bones. I chew on fish bones regularly, so I just wanted to know before biting that its a bunch of bones.
  • sauteed celery, lily and agaric. i don’t know if its my palate getting overwhelmed by other dishes with more pronounced flavors. but this one tasted bland to me.
  • sauteed dried tofu and chives. don’t remember the tofus. its a simple dish of chives, so it doesn’t feel very Hunan.
  • soup was adequate
  • onion pancake. this is just like plain white bread with green onions and sesame that even my non-spice eating kids would eat the leftovers i brought home. Just get Acme’s green onion slab instead.