I have to admit, I didn’t normally order General Tso’s chicken back in the days when we ordered take out. It wasn’t something I had growing up (we always got chicken chow mein and really good shrimp toast I recreated here-OMG 10 years ago-the 2-3x a year we got takeout) and only have had a couple of times as an adult. I have read a lot of books* about the history of Chinese food in America and Canada and Chinese-American take out and I think this is possibly the most iconic Chinese-American dish.
General Tso's Chicken
for step one:
- 1 egg white, beaten (save yolk for future use)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Sambal Olek
- 1 1/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
for step two:
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- for step three:
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1- inch knob ginger, grated
- 1 spring onion, whites, and greens chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3-4 tablespoons chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons Chiu Chow chili oil or other chunky chili oil/chili crisp
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- hot white rice, steamed broccoli (I highly recommend making or at least starting the rice before you get started and keeping it warm until ready to serve)
- Whisk together the egg white, soy sauce, Shaoxing, soy sauce, baking soda, corn starch, and sambal oelek until smooth. Add the chicken, toss to coat. Set aside.
- Whisk together the ingredients in step two's list in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk together the ingredients in step three's list in another medium bowl (I'm sorry, this recipe dirties a lot of bowls.)
- Heat the sauce in a medium skillet until it begins to reduce. If it gets too thick or gloppy, whisk in small amounts of more stock. Turn off the skillet when cooked and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat about 1/2-1 inch canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet. (if you haven't already, now is a good time to steam that broccoli)
- Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and toss one at a time in the dry ingredients from step two. Toss to evenly coat. Repeat for all chicken. Fry the chicken in batches, as needed (we did 2 batches) until golden, about 3-5 minutes.
- Drain the chicken in paper towel-lined plates.
- Return the sauce to heat and warm through.
- Add the drained chicken to the skillet with the sauce, toss to coat.
- Serve immediately with broccoli and hot rice.
I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to make General Tso’s but it seemed like a lot of effort. As it turns out, it was and we dirtied nearly every bowl in the house. However! It was totally worth it.
Normally we prefer chicken thighs but with the pandemic, all the store had was chicken breast tenders. Chicken breast is so bland, I always feel like it needs so much to be flavorful.
I realized it was the perfect time to make General Tso’s Chicken! We had the time over the weekend, all of the ingredients are very basic Chinese-Pan-Asian pantry ingredients so my husband made it for our lunch. We couldn’t find a recipe online that really looked like it worked, made sense, or had directions that weren’t complete nonsense so we ended up coming up with this. No dried peppers or fancy ingredients required. Everything we used was from the “international” aisle of a chain supermarket.
It is very simple to make but does require a few steps and a lot of bowls. It’s basically the same technique we’ve used when making other corn starch-based fried food but with even more flavoring in the “marinade” and it’s all tossed in a thick, tasty sauce.
It was so good! Very vibrant tasting and surprisingly light for being fried. The chicken stayed super crisp, even after being tossed with the sauce (thanks to my experience making these Thai-inspired nuggets, I knew cornstarch was the way to go) and the sauce was spicy and coated wonderfully.
*I highly recommend The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States by Andrew Coe, Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui and From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express: A History of Chinese Food in the United States by Haiming Liu