General Tso's Chicken

Named after a Chinese general. Supposedly, there were two with that name from different eras. Which one is under some dispute, it seems.

This dish was created in New York City in the 1970’s by Chinese chefs. Which one? It seems to be under some dispute.

Regardless of the truth, this is arguably the king of fake Chinese food. Inspired by Americans’ not very refined palates. Like Orange Chicken, some recipes you will find have a metric ton of sugar. That is not good. This one uses a bit of honey for a sweetener, but I don’t feel that it is a lot, especially compared to the 1/2 cup to cup of sugar you might find elsewhere.

I typically do not coat and fry the chicken. I just fry it in sesame oil, on medium heat. Sesame oil can not tolerate high temperatures, so be cautious, when using it and never use it to deep-fry. I added a method to coat and fry the chicken. If you prefer a more flour-based coating, it is in this orange chicken recipe.

General Tso's Chicken

2 lb Chicken, sliced or cubed

If you are going to fry it with the coating, cubed works best.

Coating - optional
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
4 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch

  1. Mix the above ingredients in a bowl
  2. Stir in the chicken
  3. Set aside or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours
General Tso's sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ginger - peel and mince it
6 tbsp chicken stock
4 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sesame seeds - optional
2 tsp red pepper flakes - optional

  • Mix all of the ingredients, except the red pepper in a sauce pan
  • Cook on medium low heat until sauce thickens
  • Mix in the pepper flakes and sesame seeds.
  • Take off the heat and set aside
Oil for frying if the coating is used
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 finely chopped green onion or 1 medium white onion cut in chunks
4-10 dried red chilis - optional

  • In a wok or cast iron pot add enough oil so the chicken can float in it
  • Heat up to 350 F, over medium-ish heat.
  • With metal tongs, add 8-10 pieces to the oil, less if the pot or deep frying is small
  • Keep the pieces seperated with the tongs
  • Cook for about 3 minutes and transfer to a play with paper towels so they can drain
  • Repeat until all of the chicken is cooked, making sure the temperature stays around 350 F.
  • In a wok, over medium heat. Add about 2 tbsp oil - sesame will work here.
  • Add the garlic, chilis, and onion, stir until fragrant.
  • Add the chicken and stir until they are heated back up.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture and stir until well-coated
If you don't want to coat the chicken, put a little sesame oil in a wok and heat over medium and add the garlic and onion until it is fragrant.
Add the chicken and cook until it is done, towards the end, add the chilis and stir for a minute or so.

This makes enough for 4-6 people, possibly more. The sauce is just enough to coat the chicken without drowning it. If you want more sauce, just double it or whatever.

If you are going to use the coating, to deep-fry use an oil that has a high smoke point. I prefer peanut oil (not all types of peanut oil can withstand high heat) or grape seed. Standard vegetable oil should work.

Make sure you don’t heat the oil too quickly, on my stove medium works fine to heat it up, and then I turn it down just slightly. Be cautious, deep-frying can be dangerous.

Chinese rice wine is often called Shaoxing. It breaks my rule of not using wine prepared for cooking, but there doesn’t seem to be alternatives. It is a dark liquid. Generally, this has to be purchased at an Asian store or online.

I use soy sauce made in China called supreme soy sauce. It is so much better than the normal stuff found in US grocery stores. This is found in better grocery stores and in Asian stores.

Dark soy sauce is very syrupy, not much salt and tastes like weak molasses. I have only seen it online or in Asian stores.

Hoisin sauce is very often found in normal grocery stores. I am working on a recipe for it.

If you don’t have honey, sugar is a substitute.

This is good served with jasmine rice, sticky rice, fried rice and a cucumber salad, or a hotter one.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.

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