On the Internet, General Tso’s Chicken inspires a level of agitation usually reserved for people who misquote a Star Wars character or use an apostrophe incorrectly. So, let’s start with a few disclaimers. No, it’s not really a traditional Hunanese dish. Yes, it often has too much sugar. That said, General Tso’s Chicken is a dish created by Chinese chefs, and has since become one of the most popular Chinese dishes in America. And while it’s a take-out staple, General Tso’s is surprisingly easy and fun to make at home.
One of the beauties of making your own General Tso’s is that it allows you to tinker with flavors. The critics are right that most take-out versions are too sweet. Good General Tso’s Chicken balances sweetness with spicy and vinegary flavors that too often get masked by sugar. Toning down the sugar not only let’s you enjoy this interplay of tastes, it also makes the dish a little healthier and lets kids experiment with spiciness in a way that’s not overwhelming to their palates.
A few notes on this recipe, adapted from Appetite for China: it uses boneless skinless thighs, which is great because they’re both inexpensive and less prone to drying out if you overcook them, making them a very forgiving cut. Also, upon making the sauce, it may appear that there’s no way it will be thick enough, but as you toss the chicken with it in the wok, the sauce will thicken, so there’s no need to worry.
General Tso’s Chicken
adapted from Appetite for China
Makes: 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 1/2 cups cornstarch
3 cups vegetable oil
12 dried arbol chili peppers
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
3 egg whites
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced green onion
1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and whisk together. Place the chicken in a dish or bowl and mix marinade in. Set in fridge and let stand for at least 20 minutes.
2. Heat the oil to 350 F in a wok.
3. While oil is heating, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl.
4. Place cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. Remove chicken from marinade and mix it in with cornstarch, being certain to coat each piece completely.
5. Cooking chicken in two to three batches to avoiding crowding, place chicken in heated oil and brown on both sides for a total cook time of 3-6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove chicken to a plate with a paper towel.
6. Carefully pour out all but a teaspoon of the cooking oil from wok for disposal later. Return wok to medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic and chili peppers. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
7. Add the chicken to the wok, then pour in sauce. Turn chicken with a wooden spoon so it’s completely coated. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.
8. Sprinkle chicken with green onion. Serve immediately with rice and steamed broccoli.More On