General Tso’s chicken is the most famous Hunanese dish in the world. I was all curious because I knew nothing about it. Even during my recent visit to costco, the lady was cooking some “The General’s Chicken” and handing them out as samples. I tasted it and it was really good. When you bite into it, the chicken is crunchy and coated with sweet sauce.
Honestly, it wasn’t until I came to the U.S. that I heard and saw this dish on the menu and always assumed General Tso’s was invented only for the Americans. The truth to that is, my mom never heard of this dish and many Asians do not aware of General Tso’s chicken either (unless they’ve visited the U.S. and somehow saw this on the restaurant’s menu or eaten this before), otherwise, this dish is almost like non-existence in China and other parts of Asia home to the Chinese.
Most Americans I know enjoy this dish. Hunanese people have little interest in dishes that combine sweet and savory tastes. So, how in the world does this dish becomes so popular here in the states, but become an alien in the Hunan Province itself ?
If you are still with me, here’s the story. From what I read form wikipedia, The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman, although this connection is tenuous. He is said to have enjoyed it, and perhaps helped create a dish, but there are no recorded recipes. The real roots of the dish lie in the post 1949 exodus of chefs to the United States. The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet.
A guy named Peng Chang-Kuei claimed to be the one who invented this dish after he immigrated to the U.S, New York, to be exact. The original version of course was spicy and not sweet. He later altered the recipe to suit the taste of the local and made it sweeter. Today, you’ll see General Tso’s chicken almost in any Chinese restaurants here in North America. Even the fast-food eatery that serves “quick” Chinese food, has General Tso’s chicken. Most adults and kids enjoy this dish because the altered version to suit the Americans’ taste is crispy and sweet. I decided to make General Tso’s chicken too. After all, this blog is not complete without having something that is so popular and easy to make.
- 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken thighs, but into bite size
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 10 dried red chilis
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Scallions, green parts- thinly sliced
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Peanut or grape-seed oil for deep-frying
- 2 egg whites (beaten)
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp shaoxing wine
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 1 tsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add in the chicken and make sure every piece is well coated. Set aside for 30 minutes
- In another bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside ready for cooking
- Once the chicken has been marinated for at last 30 minutes, put 2 cups of cornstarch in a shallow plate along with pinch of salt and pepper, stir to combine. Set aside. Preheat oil in a small to medium deep pot until 350 F. While the oil is heating, coat every piece of the chicken in the corn starch mixture. When the oil is ready, place piece by piece of the chicken into the oil and fry until golden brown and cooked through. You can pick one out after about 5 minutes to check the inside to make sure it’s no longer pink or bloody. Remove the fried chicken pieces with slotted spoon and place on absorbent kitchen towel and continue to fried the rest of the pieces
- Once you’ve fried all the chicken, turn off the heat and remove all the little bits and pieces from the frying you did earlier. Pour off the oil until you have about 1 Tbsp left. Turn on the flame and heat the oil until really hot. Toss in the dried red chilis and stir-fry for about 10 seconds and then add in the garlic and stir-fry for another 10 seconds. Add in the sauce ingredients and cook until the sauce started to thicken
- Add in the fried chicken and mix the sauce with the chicken to make sure they are coated with the sauce. Sprinkle with the spring onions. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Serve immediately with rice and other dishes