Korean-ish Fried Chicken at China Village (Albany)
At Saturday’s Oyster Bliss, two of the other City ‘hounds wanted to take advantage of our field position in the East Bay to check out some Korean fried chicken. However, calls to the likely suspects went unanswered, no one was open in the mid-afternoon. We thought about going to Nellie’s for the South’s take, but then I suggested that we go to China Village and see what Mr. Yao, who is Shandong Chinese from Korea, might be able to whip up for us.
China Village was surprisingly busy at this hour with about six tables of diners. I relayed our special request, and after much back and forth in Mandarin with “vliang”, Mr. Yao said they could fry a whole chicken for us. He said it would be plain without sauce and just a spicy salt with Sichuan peppercorns on the side. Not on the menu, this was a whole organic chicken, $25, and hit the spot. He said that next time, we should call ahead and give a few hours notice for time to marinate the bird, as this one had all the seasoning in the coating only. He also told us that he can make the Korean-style wings with spicy garlic sauce (kam pong gi), but only when he’s around as he prepares it himself.
Another dish new to me was the crispy pork intestines (chitlins) with pickled mustard greens, tender ginger, and roasted dried red peppers. I’ve had the intestines here before, one of the best versions around, but adding the tangy and juicy veggie and the bite of young ginger to a mouthful takes it over the top. This was the dish of the meal for me. Mr. Yao says it’s a regular menu item and very popular with Chinese customers, but I don’t know how it’s listed.
The spicy soy milk to start was quite good although vliang would have liked some pickled flavors too. We had some kong xin cai (water spinach aka ong choi) sautéed with shrimp paste, the first of the season and so good. The shui jiao with spicy sauce were as excellent as usual though I feel they’re getting too small.
With our meal we enjoyed the 2003 Chateauneauf-du-Pape, picked up from Kermit’s 50% off bin. Quite good, ready to drink with rich fruit and smoky depth, and very nice with these dishes.
1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Oh yeah, just be careful to be very specific that you want crispy intestines. There are various fried preps, and more than once, I've mis-ordered and not gotten what I expected. You might want to start off with the basic one that's flavored with roasted chilis without the pickles and slices of ginger. I'm suggesting that first, as it's a drier style and even crispier.
Here are some not so great pics taken of the food. Alas, phone camera quality.
Thanks, Melanie, for posting this meal. I really enjoyed the "K-ish" FC. It was definitely crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside without a heavy breading/coating. I also liked that it came "dry" without saucing. But that may be my personal disdain for that gloppy sweet sauce that sometimes accompanies such a dish (in the manner of Shandong's wings in SF).
The fried intestines with pickled veg was a good rendition of the dish. The dumplings were just okay for me. The kong hsing tsai (water spinach) for me was a tad bit overdone, and the soy milk definitely needed more pickled cabbage in flavouring. But those are minor, picky quibbles. Overall, I loved that the kitchen responded so well to our specific requests.
Finishing up our day in the East Bay with KFC was a great idea. Other than Ruth, I think you're the only other person who has ever ordered for me at China Village, thanks much. The part I don't understand is that after asking us whether we wanted the chicken cut into eight or 16 pieces and our choice of eight (to be juicier), it came out in smaller pieces. I'd like to try it cut into larger pieces for cooking another time.
re: Melanie Wong
We were there on Saturday night also but we didn’t see you. We had a great meal. I noticed lobsters in the tank there for the first time. They prepared a lobster for us sautéed with ginger and rice cakes (we often get crab prepared this way and it’s usually great). It was excellent. We also had a vegetarian dish, watercress sautéed with what I think that the waitress described as a fermented tofu sauce. The sauce was rich, buttery and very flavorful. As an appetizer we had cold sliced beef tendon and tripe.