Albany John surprised me with lunch last week. From Ala Shanghai (their new website kicks ass – great pictures and layout, plus I think there are coupons/specials). Albany John’s been known to disappear for a few hours at a time, but lunch surprises… Well, those are rare, but he does it right when he does a lunch surprise.
I opened one containter to find… SCALLION PANCAKES!! For only $2! They were significantly better than before, too. They had many more flaky, tender layers, and weren’t too oily. They are also $1 cheaper, which makes me way more likely to go “Oh my gosh, order 5 for the table” before proceeding to eat them myself. The price difference might not be that great, but for me it’s enough to go from ordering one to… several. Don’t ask me why, I’m not an economics major. I just know I love these scallion pancakes, and I love them even more when they’re $2!
They held up well to travel and were still perfectly warm and crispy when I got to it. The dipping sauce is a sweeter soy sauce, like you’d get with dim sum. I liked it a lot.
Albany John also got one of the lunch specials to split. He got pork and pepper. We were both wondering how they’d do lunch specials. Would they be uniquely Shanghaiese, or would they be more like the cheap Chinese take out lunches you can get all over the area to please the masses at lunch rush? The names are non-indicative in that they were minimally descriptive and sounded generic. How would it be?
I won’t leave you in suspense any longer. The pork and pepper was awesome and not at all like anything else in the area. You might be thinking that “pork and pepper” would be thin, velveted pork chop strips stir-fried with some bell pepper. If Ala Shanghai were serving generic Chinese food, you’d probably be correct. However, Ala Shanghai serves some serious lunch, and this was smoked pork belly and jalapeno peppers. Bring on the heat!
Albany John wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle all of the heat (because it was just jalapeno peppers), but guess what? I COULD HANDLE IT! Ala Shanghai flavors everything so well, that even though it was hot and spicy, its flavors were well rounded.
The jalapenos really evened out some of the untuous fatty bits. Just pork belly and jalapenos. No filler, just deliciously soft and gelatinous fatty meaty pork belly slices. It was a great combination that makes me think I need to cook more with chilis at home.
Lunch also came with rice and soup. I think Albany John ordered egg drop, and we got hot and sour/sweet and sour instead. There were a bunch of mushrooms in there (bonus) and other vegetable matter, but we’re not sour soup fans so we called it quits halfway through. I think this meal was ~ $6. A very affordable lunch option, especially when it’s so tasty.
I think they also deliver to Troy/RPI for lunch and in the evenings. Albany John has more details. He’s sometimes in Troy during lunch, and was really liking the idea of just having to go to RPI to pick up a tasty lunch. It’d be closer than driving to Latham.
And then I opened another container and IT WAS MORE SCALLION PANCAKES!!!! WAH HOO!!! I was in scallion pancake heaven. You know, I think these are the 2nd best scallion pancakes in Albany. They are just edged out slightly by One of A Kind Teahouse.
If you don’t know why scallion pancakes are such a big deal, you need to get on over to Ala Shanghai and give them a try.
So, $10 for an awesome lunch for 2 people. If Ala Shanghai ever gets an order for 5 scallion pancakes, it’ll probably be from me.
I’m kind of hoping my Dad comes up for a visit some time so I can take him here. Soup dumplings and scallion pancakes! Hello happiness!
Just another thing to note: The English is excellent at Ala Shanghai, so I don’t think you need to worry about any communication errors. I have some friends that have food allergies, and it can be dicey to fully explain “Please don’t give me ________, it will kill me/make me really sick” in restaurants where the staff speak a different first language and know Restaurant English.