General Tso Chicken or General Tso’s Chicken is one of the most famous Chinese dishes in American. I have heard a saying that people in China have never heard of General Tso’s Chicken, which is not true.
The dish is named after General Tso, who was a famous general in human province. But General Tso’s chicken has nothing to do with the general.
General Tso’s chicken is created by a famous cook Changgui Peng who is expert in Hunan Cuisine.
In 1970’s, the Taiwan's premier Jiang Jingguo visited the restaurant where cook Peng worked in the middle night after duty. Only chicken thighs were left with no other ingredients available. So cook Peng cut the bones out and meat into small cubes, fried firstly and then stir-fried with soy sauce, vinegar, chopped garlic and ginger. And then add water starch and ladled with sesame oil. The premier loved the dish and asked for the name, cook Peng responded quickly with a name after General Tso. From that time, this General Tso’s Chicken has been the featured dish of that restaurant.
Three years later, cook Peng went to American and opened a restaurant. This General Tso’s chicken was loved by Kissinger and further featured by ABC, which makes General Tso’s Chicken as one of the most famous Chinese-American dish.
This cooking process is quite common in Hunan cuisine. For the success of making your own General Tso’s chicken, the most important step is the marinating process. As told above, chicken thighs are better than boneless chicken breast. Chinese people do not like to eat chicken breast very much compared with chicken wings and thighs. Even with Kung Pao Chicken, Chinese versions are almost made with chicken thighs.
In a small bowl, add light soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, chili oil and salt to make the stir-frying sauce.
In another bowl, add 2 teaspoons of corn starch and 2 teaspoons of chicken stock or water. The ratio should around 1:1. You can also mix the two bowls together to simplify the process.
Cut the bones out and the meat of chicken thighs into small cubes around 2 cm long. And then marinade with salt, light soy sauce, cooking wine and egg whites. Put aside for around 10 minutes.
Then add 1 tablespoon of starch and coat the chicken cubes evenly just before the frying process. Grasp with hand until the chicken cubes are evenly coated.
And then heat up a relatively larger batch of oil in wok. And stir-fry the chicken cubes until golden brown. And then return the fired chicken cubes back to deep fry again for a short time.
Leave around 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in wok, add chili pepper until the color turns darker. Return fire chicken cubes in with chopped ginger and garlic. And then add stir fry sauce, water starch and sesame oil. Mix well and transfer out immediately.
General Tso Chicken
- 4 ~5 boneless chicken thighs , around 1 pound; cut into 2 cm cubes
- 6 dried chili pepper , cut into small section
- 1 inch root ginger , chopped
- 3 garlic cloves , chopped
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch for coating
- 2 cups of cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
- 1 egg white
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon cooking wine
- ½ tablespoon light soy sauce
Stir fry sauce:
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons water or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Cut the bones out and the meat of chicken thighs into small cubes around 2 cm long. And then marinade with salt, light soy sauce, cooking wine and egg whites. Put aside for around 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine light soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, chili oil and salt to make the stir-frying sauce.
- In another bowl, add 2 teaspoons of corn starch and 2 teaspoons of water. Mix well to make water starch.
- Coat the chicken cubes with cornstarch just before the frying process.
- Heat up the oil in wok and deep-fry the chicken cubes until golden brown. Transfer the chicken out and heat the oil again. Then return the fried chicken cubes and fry them once again for no more than 15 seconds. Transfer out and set aside. Meanwhile pour the extra oil out and leave around 1 tablespoon in wok.
- Add chili pepper in wok, stir fry until the color turns darker over middle fire. Return fire chicken cubes in with chopped ginger and garlic. Fry over high fire for 30 seconds.
- Stir in stir fry sauce in and mix evenly. Pour water starch and sesame oil. Mix thoroughly and move out immediately
- Garnish some sesame seeds before serving.
- To simplify the steps, you can mix the water starch and stir-fry sauce together but I recommend adding the starch at the very last step.
- The stir-frying process should be quick after returning fried chicken so remember to turn up the fire; otherwise, the crispy taste might be spoil.
Brandon J. Li
Your recipe for General Tso's Chicken is soooooo much better than what Chinese-American restaurants serve here in the States. Here in Ohio it is much too sweet which overwhelms all the other great ingredients but yours has just a subtle touch of sweetness which allows all the other wonderful flavors to really shine.
My Grandma and Grandpa Li tried it when visiting Taiwan and fell in love with the more authentic Hunanese flavor though none of us care for the Americanized version. Your recipe reminds me of my Grandma's but I think yours might even be better and all my family and friends loved it !!!
I believe that this overwhelming sweet taste exists widely in Americanized Chinese dishes. I see sugar is largely increased in lots of recipes for those dishes. In most Chinese dishes especially Hunan and Sichuan cuisine, sugar is just a way to create the freshness and to balance to taste (to mild the spiciness for example).
I am so glad to have a such a fellow foodie as you. You can taste the difference out.
I made this recipe last night, it turned out very dry with hardly any sauce. Any idea where I could have gone wrong?
The last tossing process should be quite quick with lower fire. Or next time you can double the sauce ingredients.
Better than most restaurant versions. I love the authentic flavors of your recipes! Added a little more sugar. Very good.