General Tso's Chicken

Having just eaten at a Chinese buffet for the millionth time, and finishing off another delectable plate of General Tso’s chicken, I began thinking.

Who is General Tso? And why is there chicken named after him?

I remember hearing a tale (which very well could be false) that General Tso required all of his men to carry live chickens with them while heading in to battle.

True story. Eve orders General Tso’s Chicken at local chop suey joint, and gets curious.

Eve: So, who was General Tso?

Cashier: What? You want General Tso?

Eve: I already ordered—I just wanted to know who General Tso WAS.

Cashier: [looking at receipt] General Tso—He Eve Golden.

Eve: No, that’s ME; I wanted to know who General Tso was.

Cashier: He chicken. In spicy sauce.

Eve: [trying to be polite} No. I was curious about who the PERSON, General Tso, was.

[Cashier, nearly in tears, calls manager.]

Eve: I ordered General Tso’s Chikcen, and was wondering if you knew who the General Tso the dish was named after WAS.

Manager: Oh, he some Chinese guy.

[Eve quietly takes her chicken and leaves]

At one Chinese buffet I used to frequent, this particular dish was called “Generic Chicken.” :slight_smile:

Eve – Thank you, thank you for my laugh of the day. I spewed ginger ale onto my keyboard, but it was worth it!

Is this going to turn into another Flora McFlimsey thing?

That entire conversation actually happened—though I admit as I was typing it out, I felt like I was channeling Wally.


Too funny.

So, now we know that General Tso is some Chinese guy…named Eve Golden…in spicy sauce.

Said sauce, of course, being Cream of Sum Yung Gai.

::ducks and runs::

Y’know, I love General Tso’s chicken. And you
can find it in nearly every chinese restaurant
on the East Coast, but I can’t find it at all
here in LA? Why is this? Is General Tso’s chicken
becoming a US regional dish?

If General Tso(a)'s chicken is crunchy, sweet 'n sour, and covered with a brownish sauce, then it most certainly is available in the Bay Area. Chef Chau’s Fast Food sells it, they probably have at least a few stores down south.

Now if only someone would explain to me the stories behind Happy Family and Beef Chow Fun, my life would be complete.

Here’s a recipe I found online

General Tso’s Chicken
S. John Ross

It’s not authentically Chinese, but it’s nevertheless one of the most popular dishes at Chinese restaurants here on the East Coast and elsewhere. General Tso’s Chicken is very inexpensive to make, but most restaurants charge rather a lot for it, usually putting it with “Chef’s Specialities” and the like on the menu, rather than with the ordinary chicken dishes. No fair! This is how to make it.

1 lb boneless chicken, cubed
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup and 2 tsp cornstarch
5 dried pepper pods
1-1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp rice wine
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce

In a large bowl, thoroughly blend the 1/2 cup of cornstarch and the eggs; add the chicken and toss to coat. If the mixture bonds too well, add some vegetable oil to separate the pieces.

In a small bowl, prepare the sauce mixture by combining the 2 tsp cornstarch with the wine, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce.

First-Stage Frying: Heat 1-2 inches of peanut oil in a wok to medium-high heat (350-400). Fry the chicken in small batches, just long enough to cook the chicken through. Remove the chicken to absorbent paper and allow to stand (this step can be performed well in advance, along with the sauce mixture, with both refrigerated).

Second-Stage Frying: Leave a tablespoon or two of the oil in the wok. Add the pepper pods to the oil and stir-fry briefly, awakening the aroma but not burning them. Return the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the pieces are crispy brown.

The General’s Favorite Sauce: Add the sauce-mixture to the wok, tossing over the heat until the sauce caramelizes into a glaze (1-2 minutes). Serve immediately. Serves 4, along with steamed broccoli and rice.

Variations and Substitutions

Sherry substitutes well for the rice wine, but avoid “cooking sherry” if you can. Sugar in the sauce ranges from as little as a few teaspoons to a full half-cup in some recipes. Soy sauce, too, varies dramatically, rising as high as double that listed above. Nearly any sort of vinegar can be used. In some recipes, a tablespoon of soy sauce is added to the egg-and-cornstarch blend. In others, the chicken itself is marinated before being used, in either soy, wine, vinegar, or some combination of those.

Many recipes include a much lighter egg-and-cornstarch coating for the chicken (about 2 tbsp of starch and two eggs). I prefer the heavier coating; adjust to taste.

Optional Sauce Ingredients: A grind of fresh black pepper, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a teaspoon of MSG, a clove or two of garlic, a couple of fresh chopped scallions or green onions, 1-2 teaspoons of Chinese chili sauce, fresh ginger, a teaspoon of hoisin sauce, the minced rind of an orange, and many other items may be added to the sauce. Any vegetable additions should be added to the oil along with the chicken (the ginger can burn easily - add it last).

Option - Light Tso Sauce: The traditional sauce for General Tso’s is a heavy, spicy glaze, different from the lighter broth-based sauces found on most other Chinese dishes. Some prefer a lighter Tso sauce, too, and this can be achieved by tripling the cornstarch in the sauce and adding a half-cup of fluid. The “fluid” can be chicken broth, water, or even fruit juice (both orange and pineapple have been used). Cook the sauce only 'til it thickens, instead of waiting for a glaze. This version of the sauce is actually more common in the local restaurants; if you’re a Tso fan, it might be what you’re used to.


General Zou Zong-Tang was a general of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty of China, responsible for supressing Muslim uprisings. His name was used to frighten Muslim children for centuries after his death. It is questionable whether or not the General (or his quartermaster) actually invented General Tso’s Chicken . . . it may have been the invention of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States and Europe. Alternate spellings include General Cho, General Zo, General Zhou, General Jo, and General Tzo. It is pronounced “Djo,” with the tongue hard against teeth.


The basis for this recipe was compiled from over forty different versions of the dish, combining the best aspects of each, averaging sauce ratios, and simplifying the basic dish to it’s core ingredients.



If true, I want one order now, and one order a night for the rest of my life. :smiley:

I live in LA and don’t recall ever seeing it on a menu here. But it is most certainly available in the Bay Area:

I went to Chinatown with three of my friends, and I asked the waiter “What is General Tso’s Chicken?” Apparently, my waiter had the same firm grasp of English as Eve’s waiter, because he started taking the order down. I turned to my friends and said “I guess it’s what we’re having” :rolleyes:

It wasn’t bad. I prefer Kung Pao Chicken, and especially Sweet and Pungent Chicken (my favorite!), but this was a decent change of pace.