General Tso, or Zuo Zongtang (as he was better known) was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t serving up this traditional Chinese-American dish to his troops at that time- but, he must have been one helluva stand-up guy to have such a dish named in his honor. General Tso’s chicken is usually one of my husband’s choices when we order take-out Chinese. I suppose I should say “was” one of hisfavorite choices, eventually he gave up. Flabby chicken, a cloyingly sweet sauce with no heat – it was a sad state around here.
So, when I came across a recipe for it in Saveur’s most recent issue (1 of the 101 Classic Recipes) I couldn’t wait to try it at home. I try not to keep frying to a minimum around here, as standing over a vat of bubbling grease isn’t really my bag. And you know, also the whole calorie thing. But, for a dish like this, it’s totally worth it to indulge. It’s a liquid batter, which I found interesting – but it worked well. It’s composed primarily of cornstarch, which maintains it’s crispiness after being removed from the fryer, and stands up to a tossing in thick sauce.
Oh right, the sauce. Let me just go ahead and state for the record that it’s about 1,000,003 times better than any Tso’s sauce I’ve had in any Chinese restaurant. The fresh ginger and garlic, the bite from the rice wine vinegar, some sweetness from brown sugar, and then tomato in the background to balance everything out nicely. I couldn’t find the peppers they called for in the recipe, so I just substituted some red serranos and a squirt of Sriracha. It wasn’t too spicy that the boys couldn’t eat it too, and eat it they did. Fake out – take out nights are some of my favorite dinners, and this is definitely a new one to add to the rotation!
General Tso’s Chicken
1 cup + 2 Tbsp chicken stock
7 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp rice vinegar
6 Tbsp tomato paste
5 Tbsp soy sauce
4 1/2 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1″ cubes
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
6 red chili peppers
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 3/4 cups peanut or vegetable oil
thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Whisk stock, 1 tbsp cornstarch, vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp. Tamari, hoisin sauce, Sriracha, and 3 tbsp water in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place remaining cornstarch and soy sauce, chicken, 3 tbsp peanut oil, and egg yolks in a bowl; toss.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 1/2 cups of peanut oil to 375 degrees. Working in batches, add chicken; fry, tossing, until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; set aside.
In a large skillet, add remaining 2 tbsp peanut oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic, and chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds. Add reserved sauce; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add chicken; fry, tossing constantly, until evenly coated with the sauce, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sesame oil. Transfer to a serving plate; top with scallions.
Source: Saveur, October 2012