I'll probably get rocked for this but General Tso's Chicken has always been one of the victims of what I like to call "Chinese Food Non-Standard Syndrome". Anyway, the original recipe called for the copious use of peppercorn and chili spices, along with some vinegar. The chicken is lightly battered, deep fried, then mixed in a wok with some oil, ginger, vinegar, and the mix of the above mentioned spices. The result is a very delicious dish but very painful aftermath.

I've been to many places where they've served some bastardized version of this dish with heavily breaded chicken and huge peppers...and then they called it General Tao's Chicken. I've owned an authentic Chinese restaurant for 15 years and I've been asked the same question: "What's the difference between General Tso's Chicken and General Tao's Chicken?" My answer is always the same: "General Tso really did come from China. General Tao, however, worked with Colonel Sanders."

According to Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, author of Chinese Kitchen (Morrow, 1999) what we know as General Tso's Chicken is actually a classic Hunan dish called "chung ton gai," or "ancestor meeting place chicken." Other sources place the origin of General Tso's Chicken more recently, in New York City. The creation of General Tso's Chicken has been attributed to two different chefs, Chef Peng and T.T. Wang, in the early 1970s.

The connection between the the real General Tso and the concoction that bears his name is tenuous at best. It is highly unlikely that General Tso himself ate the dish; General Tso's Chicken (also General Tsung's chicken or General Tsao's chicken) is more common in overseas Chinese restaurants than in China itself.

What's the connection, then? As the Chinese say, mei(2) you(3) guan(1) xi(0). Literally, there is no connection. Colloquially, it doesn't matter. General Tso was famous, the name is simple and easy for foreigners to pronounce, and it sounds impressive.

General Tso outranks Colonel Sanders.
Besides, unlike the Venerable and Inscrutable Colonel, his military rank was legitimate.

It hit me one day that KFC Barbecue tastes an awful lot like General Tso's Chicken.

Sources: Michael Browning, The Washington Post, Wednesday, April 17, 2002; Page F01 Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken?

General Tsao’s Chicken - Chark's version

I am quite particular about my Chinese food. I had my first brush with General Tso's Chicken at a little hole-in-the-wall strip-mall Chinese restaurant in Austin, Texas, and loved it! After that, I tried the same dish, with multiple variant spellings. Finally, as I enjoy experimental cooking, I decided to make my own.

I started with a Sesame Chicken recipe in a Chinese cookbook from the bookstore. I took out what I hadn't seen, added what I had, and futzed around with sugar, vinegar, etcetera, to get the taste right. I got seriously tired of scorching my tongue, so I left out the scalding evil peppers of death, and substituted Chinese hot oil instead. I tried to make it cookable for the most part with everyday ingredients that people would have around their kitchens. A couple of things to note... If you know how to cook white rice so it's sticky, make this that way. The broccoli spears should be lightly steamed and still just a bit crunchy. The chicken should be hot and crisp when you pour the sauce over it. The whole shebang takes about an hour to two hours, depending on your experience at cooking it. Timing the rice, broccoli, and main dish, and having them all ready at the same time takes a bit of juggling as well, but the end-result is well worth it!

Main Ingredients

Batter
Hot Ginger Sauce

Cooking Instructions

Wash and thinly slice the ginger root, place in the chicken broth and simmer on low.

Beat all batter ingredients by hand in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed and set it to the side.

Cut all of the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces (4 to 5 per thigh), and mix all the pieces into the batter making sure all pieces are coated - cover the bowl and place it aside.

Once the chicken broth has simmered for a while, strain out the ginger root slices, and stir in all of the other sauce ingredients except for the 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Stir the mixture slowly until it comes to a gentle boil. Stir the water and cornstarch together thoroughly, and immediately pour the mixture into the sauce. Stir gently until the sauce thickens, then cover it and set it on a warm burner.

Deep fry the chicken pieces 10 to 15 at a time in hot oil until barely beginning to brown and set the pieces out on paper towels to drain. Once all the pieces have been fried, turn the oil down to medium-high and re-fry the chicken to a crisp golden brown. (The initial brief round seals in the juices and the second cooks the chicken)

Heap the hot rice in the center of a large serving dish, surround it with the broccoli spears, place the chicken on top, and pour the sauce evenly over the whole thing. This is enough to serve six adults.

WARNING - this is highly addictive food - cook it at your own risk!

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