You may be wondering why this Chinese/American staple is on every restaurant menu. It’s by far one of the most popular takeout dishes in America and one that has achieved notoriety due to its sweet and spicy nature and its deep fried nature.
So who the hell was General Tso? Most people don’t really give a rat’s posterior.
But seriously, divulging fact and fiction Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t’ang – 1812-1885) never tried this dish and none of his descendants have remotely heard of it. For those who do give a rat’s posterior in knowing where the recipe originated, it was made popular in America by a 20th century Chinese chef, Pen Chang-Kuei, hailing from the Hunan province, who opened a restaurant on NYC’s 44th street in the 70’s and since it was the most admired dish on his menu that’s where it achieved its worldwide notoriety.
Even with the dish’s commonplace ingredients, the addition of sugar is what’s given this recipe its claim to fame and on a good day, tweeters, yelpers and instagramers will pay resonant homage to many an Asian locale with a god Tso rendition. Whether you are ordering the chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu version, everyone knows how succulent the outcome is.
Most takes are heavily coated, before deep fried – that is what makes this sought-after Chinese-American dish so tasty. I lightly coat and pan sauté the chicken thighs and in my opinion, this method is just as delectable as the deep-fried version – if not tastier and leaner on the waistline. The results are mouthwatering for such a surprisingly simple dish. Oh and please, use thigh meat here as with most chicken stir fries – the result will be a juicy and tender piece of meat.
1 LB of boneless and skinless chicken thighs trimmed and cubed
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
¼ cup of cornstarch PLUS 3 more TBSP
1 TSP of Sambal Oelek chili sauce
2 TBSP sugar
¼ cup of light soy sauce
1 egg white
3 TBSP of garlic ginger paste (or 2 TBSP each of minced garlic and ginger)
5 scallions – sliced
2 TBSP sesame oil
2 TBSP veggie oil for frying
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Scallions for garnish
In a medium bowl beat the egg white with the sesame oil, 1 TBSP soy and 2 TBSP of corn starch mixing well. Marinate the chicken for about 30-45 minutes at room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk the Sambal Oelek, chicken stock, sugar and the ¼ cup of soy and mix well. Set aside. In a large wok heat up some oil and add the garlic/ginger paste and sauté the mixture on high heat for about 30-40 seconds – be careful not to burn it. Add the reserved sauce and keep on a simmer – it will thicken considerably in consistency.
In a separate skillet, heat another 2 TBSP of oil and fry the chicken (do it slowly as it will spatter when you add it to the hot oil). Cook, turning the pieces until they are nice and golden and remove with tongs, adding to the wok with the simmering sauce – for about 30 -40 seconds to coat the chicken with the sauce.
Sprinkle with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds and serve over jasmine rice.