General Tso’s Chicken, Chinese Version

Are you looking for the Americanized General Tso chicken that is very sweet or a dish originally created by Peng Chang-kuei, a Hunanese chef exiled from Taiwan?

I found two American versions of this popular Chinese dish I liked online and two recipes from my Chinese cookbooks. Fuchsia Dunlop, “Revolutionary Chinese Cooking” and Kian Lam Kho, “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees”; two expert authorities on Chinese cooking provided their versions by Chef Peng Chang-kuei that I preferred. I combined the best of both recipes which appealed to me.

This is not a traditional Hunan dish but the flavors reflect Chef Peng Chang-kuei’s Hunan background. This recipe is more hot and sour and lacks the sweetness of the Americanized version.

So, who is this General Tso? Tso Tsung-t’ang was a 19th century general who helped put down a series of rebellions. The Hunanese have a strong military belief and Tso is one of their well-known historical figures; a statesman in the Qing Dynasty.

Chef Peng said he created this dish during a visit by Admiral Arthur W. Radford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1955. He called it General Tso’s Chicken on the spur of the moment!

General Tso's Chicken, Chinese Version, Adapted

Marinade:

  • 16 oz. chicken breasts, boneless and skinless; cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. potato flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. peanut oil

Combine the above ingredients and marinate as long as the night before.

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp. Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. potato flour or cornstarch
  • sugar is optional but was not included in the original General Tso’s chicken (I did not add any)

Combine the above ingredients and set aside.

Chicken:

  • enough peanut oil to fry the chicken pieces
  • 3/4 cup potato flour, cornstarch or try tapioca starch like Kian uses
  • 6-10 dried red chilies, snipped in half and discard seeds (I used 8, add some seeds for more heat)
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger, finely minced (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. fresh garlic, finely minced (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • green part of scallions, sliced thinly for garnish
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted for garnish

Heat the oil in a wok to 375°F. Place the cornstarch or potato flour in a bowl. Toss the marinated chicken in the starch and coat generously.

Fry the chicken in batches until a nice brown for about 5 minutes; drain well.

Leave only about 2 tbsp. of peanut oil in your wok; add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the chilies and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.

Pour the sauce (be sure you stir it first) into the wok. The sauce will thicken in about 1 minute. Return the chicken to the mixture and toss the meat in the sauce; add the sesame oil. Garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with a bowl of your favorite rice and steamed broccoli.

Comment: A number of starches can be used in this recipe with good results such as arrowroot, cornstarch, potato, tapioca and wheat.  Some chefs feel one works better than the other. Such as Kian who believes tapioca flour produces the smoothest sauce and crispiest fried crust. On the other hand Fuchsia prefers potato flour. They both agree cornstarch makes a good substitute! So, you decide…

Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com

37 thoughts on “General Tso’s Chicken, Chinese Version

  1. What a beautiful recipe Judi. I love creating Asian dishes at home and love the sweet and the heat in mine so maybe a bit of sugar for me. I need to get a couple new ingredients to make this one but always looking for new things to try.

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  2. This looks so delicious! This dish too often is way too sweet and I love the fact that you don’t add sugar.
    If you haven’t seen it, highly recommend looking watching the documentary “The search for General Tso”. It’s fascinating.

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    • Thanks Ronit – sugar is optional but I liked it just fine without. Thanks for the info on the documentary as I would love to see it. That would be the final chapter in this recipe I posted as learning new things is always fun! I will have to check…

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  3. It looks just wonderful Judi. Would you believe it if I told you I’ve never ever tried General Tso’s Chicken dish? It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Chinese restaurant, but I’ve seen these boxed ones at Trader Joe’s and other grocery aisles. It does sound wonderful, I love the sweet and hot going on in that sauce, I can only imagine what it tastes like.

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    • Thank you Loretta – sure I believe it! I never cared much for the restaurant version, not only because it was usually too sweet but they used thigh meat. I prefer chicken breast… I stuck with the original Peng recipe and did not add any sugar – I liked it a lot 🙂

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  4. I’m with you, Judi! I really prefer not to eat the sticky sweet glop that so often passes for this dish! Unless I have some real craving, and then I don’t admit it, lol!! 🙂 This sounds amazing. Pinning!

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