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Wojia Hunan Cuisine, Albany: Chowdown report

Ruth Lafler | Sep 17, 201812:11 PM     1

Wojia Hunan Cuisine is a new addition to the regional Chinese restaurant scene in Albany. What stands out is that unlike many regional Chinese restaurants, especially those outside Chinese enclaves, the menu is focused entirely on regional cuisine (Hunan, or Hunan variations on other Western Chinese dishes), with no Mongolian beef in sight (although the waiter did stop by to ask if we wanted it -- we assured him emphatically we did not!).

Instead the menu is organized into categories: some traditional, like appetizers and soups, some by technique (steamed, sizzling) and some with designations like "Five wows," "Impressive dishes" and "Classic dishes." After much debate, my table of eight settled on twelve dishes (and then added Chinese green onion bread/pancake as a thirteenth).
From the "wows": sliced flounder with chopped peppers and Chairman Mao stew pork hock
From the "impressive dishes": fried glutinous rice ball and stir-fried cordyceps flower chicken and clam
From the "classic": sauteed smoked pork with dried radishes, Daqian fried shrimp with tea leaves, sauteed pork enoki mushroom fungus and egg, and sauteed cauliflower with pork
From the "sizzling and pots": griddle-cooked sliced potatoes
From the "steamed": steamed smoked meat combination and steamed spareribs with sticky rice and corn
From the "main" dishes (rice and noodle dishes): homestyle noodles and Chinese onion pancake

I will note that many of the dishes have similar names, so ordering carefully is key. For example, the griddled potato dish (essentially spicy potato chips) we got was not the one we thought we had ordered, which turned out to be serendipitous, since we liked it better.

I wouldn't say I was wowed by the "wow" dishes, but I was impressed by the "impressive" ones. When the chicken arrived with nothing that looked like flowers we asked the waiter, who told us incorrectly that the orange strips in the dish were julienned carrot and that the flower reference was just descriptive. Dubious, we pulled out our smartphones and discovered that the thin orange filaments were actually the fruiting body of the insectivorous cordyceps fungus. Even more impressive were the unassumingly named fried glutinous rice balls. Freshly fried marble-sized balls, salty and spicy on the outside but filled with slightly sweetened liquid sesame paste (think tahini), they were a riot of flavors and textures in a single bite.

Other stand outs were the classic sauteed smoked pork with dried radishes and probably the best version of the green onion pancake (bready style, not flattened) I've had.

More comments and pictures to come!

Wojia Hunan Cuisine
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