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Unfold the chicken thighs and lay them, skin side down, on a cutting board. (If some parts are very thick, lay your knife flat and slice them across in half, parallel to the board.)
Use a sharp knife to make a few shallow criss-cross cuts into the meat — this will help the flavors penetrate. Then, cut each thigh into 1 ½- to 1 ¾-inch-long slices, an uneven 1/8 inch or so in thickness. Place the slices in a bowl.
Add the soy sauces and egg yolk to the chicken and mix well. Then stir in the potato flour, and lastly 2 teaspoons of the oil. Set aside.
Place a wok over high heat and line a plate with paper towels. Add just enough oil to submerge the chicken (you may need to do this in batches) and heat to 350-400 degrees. Add the chicken and fry until crisp and golden. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to the paper towels. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and clean the wok if necessary.
Return the wok to high heat. Add the remaining cooking oil and the chiles and stir-fry briefly until they are fragrant and just changing color (do not burn them). Toss in the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds more, until you can smell their aromas. Then add the sauce and stir as it thickens.
Return the chicken to the wok and stir vigorously to coat the pieces in sauce. Stir in the sesame oil, then serve, with a scattering of scallions, if using.
General Tso's Chicken
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg white, 4 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp soy sauce and 1/2 tsp ginger. Stir in the chicken until evenly coated.
In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil and the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp cornstarch and 1/2 tsp ginger. Stir in the honey and vinegar.
Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil and swirl to coat. Carefully add half of the chicken pieces in a single layer. Cook, turning once, until the meat is no longer pink. about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil and chicken.
Discard the excess oil from the wok (about 1/2 tbsp). Add the scallions and garlic stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the sesame oil mixture. Return chicken to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick and the chicken is cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Serve with the broccoli and brown rice.
1. Prepare the chicken
We use only chicken thigh meat in our General Tso&rsquos Chicken recipe. Chicken breast meat is never a substitute because it is dry, and the texture is tougher than the thigh meat.
Therefore we only order the whole chicken leg from our chicken vendor. He will debone the chicken for us, which I think you can request the same service from your chicken supplier.
Upon receiving the chicken (his worker will deliver to our kitchen), our staff will clean the chicken and drain the chicken thigh in a large colander.
We discard the skin as it does not taste good. Cut the chicken thigh into bite-size pieces, about three to four cm square. We also want to make sure that the thigh meat is entirely free from any small bones. Sometimes we found some bone debris still attached to the meat unnoticed.
Transfer the meat pieces to the kitchen scale to obtain the net weight. We weigh everything with the digital scale down to one gram because consistency is crucial in the restaurant business. It is so useful that I also purchase a digital scale for my kitchen at home, although I am only cooking at home occasionally.
Our standard recipe is based on one kg of deboned thigh meat. We will recalculate the amount of each ingredient based on the actual amount of the meat that we have. Occasionally, the net weight is less than a kg. Sometimes we also make larger batches.
Once we have recalculated the batch size (we use a spreadsheet to do this), we can then move on to the next step, i. e. to prepare the marinade.
General Tso's Chicken Recipe
General Tso’s chicken (also known as General Tao’s or Tsao’s chicken) is an iconic Chinese-American takeout of deep-fried chicken coated in a thick sweet sauce. It is practically served in all Chinese takeout restaurants here in the States but you won’t find it anywhere in China. This dish was specifically made for the Western palate.
To make General Tso’s chicken, bite-size pieces of chicken thighs are first coated with a beaten egg then lightly tossed in corn starch then deep fried. All the flavor in the chicken is added later. In a wok, minced garlic and ginger are heated to bring out their amazing aroma. In go chicken stock, sugar, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Corn starch is added to thicken the sauce. The deep-fried chicken get a quick toss in this sweet and thick sauce and boom! General Tso’s chicken is born in less than 30 minutes.
The sweet sauce in this recipe is nothing short of amazing. However, too much of it is not so great. I love making this dish at home because I have more control of ingredients. The recipe below just makes enough sauce to coat the chicken and not so much that it drowns the chicken and make them soggy, something I find too common in Chinese takeout restaurants. Bleh.
My kids absolutely love this chicken recipe. One even proclaimed he can eat this everyday without ever getting sick of it. I highly doubt it but it melts my heart into a puddle of mush.
Here’s a helpful tip. Leftover chicken is even better the next day as the flavor soaks through. If you don’t mind losing a bit of crispiness in the chicken, double the recipe below for leftover the next day. To complete this meal, I served General Tso’s chicken with steamed rice and lightly-salted steamed broccoli. Nom.
My awesome kitchen tool to prevent hot oil burns: Splatter Screen for Frying Pan
General Tso’s Chicken (General Tao)
Tender bite-sized chicken pieces coated in a sticky sauce that’s got the perfect balance of sweet, savoury, sour and spice.
This dish has become one of the most popular North American Chinese restaurant items since it first appeared in the early 1970s.
The inspiration for this dish is Zuo Zongtang (1812-1885), a Qing dynasty military leader from China’s Hunan Province. General Tso, as he’s mostly known in the west, is celebrated for his military exploits as well as his contributions to advancements in agriculture and publishing.
The mystical Zhangjiajie Mountains, Hunan, China. Photo: Joshua Sortino
After renowned chef Peng Chang-kuei, fled Hunan for Taiwan in the 1960s, he created a dish that would be representative of his homeland while honouring one of its most celebrated leaders. But Peng’s General Tso chicken was not known outside of Taiwan.
When visiting Peng’s restaurant, New York restaurateur T. T. Wang was so impressed with the dish that he decided to bring it back to America. It was added to the menu at his Manhattan restaurant, Shun Lee Palace, in 1972.
A renewed interest in Chinese cuisine
This was that shot in the arm that American-Chinese restaurants needed. And the arrival of General Tso’s chicken couldn’t have come at a better time.
President Richard Nixon had just made his historic visit to China. Back home, viewers witnessed the president sampling authentic Chinese cuisine with the Chinese premier. The visit greatly helped improve relations between the two superpowers. For the American people, the event sparked a new curiosity about Chinese culture and its food in particular.
America was ready to move on from the Chop Suey houses that were ubiquitous in the first part of the century. T. T. Wang’s success was infectious and it wasn’t long until Chinese restaurants across North America began offering their own versions of General Tso’s Chicken on their menus.
When chef Peng learned that his dish was such a huge sensation in the US, it wasn’t long before he moved to New York to set up his own restaurant to raving reviews.
General Tso’s chicken was a stir-fried masterpiece, sizzling hot both in flavor and temperature.Mimi Sheraton, New York Times
The documentary film, The Search for General Tso, sheds light on the evolution of American-Chinese cuisine. A big part of the success of the Chinese restaurant business is their ability to adapt to suit local tastes. Indeed, this business model has been applied across the globe as most nations have their own versions of Chinese food.
Because of this, there are several regional and name variations to General Tso’s chicken as well. It may also appear as General Tsao, General Gao, General Cho and General Tao on menus where you live. It can range from crispy and spicy at one restaurant to sweet mild and chewy at another. The saga has now come full circle as the dish is available in some parts of China, especially in cities where there are larger numbers of westerners.
With this easy to prepare recipe, I am going for tender pan-fried chicken smothered in a sauce of well-balanced Hunan flavours. You may just prefer it over take-out.
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 1 hour ahead of time but keep the chicken separate from the sauce. Keep both of them warm before tossing and serving.
How to Reheat: Add some sesame oil to a large wok over medium heat and add your desired amount of general Tso’s chicken to the wok and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. You can also cook in a microwave-safe bowl until hot.
How to Store: Cover and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This will not freeze well.
You can absolutely use a combination of white meat or dark meat or just one or the other. Be sure to remove the bone and skins before cutting into bite-size pieces.
When mixing the flour and corn starch in with the marinated chicken, the batter should resemble a thick tempura-style batter.
To make a slurry mix together 1 tablespoon of water with 1 tablespoon of corn starch until combined.
Tips On Ingredients In This Sauce
The main thickening agent in the ingredient list is the cornstarch. Adding the cornstarch to the other ingredients and heating the pot for a while does the trick when it comes to getting a more desirable consistency. Apart from that, white and brown sugar also caramelize, and in the process make the sauce thicker.
However, you must watch out on the use of cornstarch. Most people usually underestimate the required content when preparing the sauce. Don’t forget that the actual thickening occurs when the cornstarch is heated. If you expect that you will add the cornstarch until it is sufficiently thick, you may end up with a rude shock as the sauce may end up becoming a paste. For this reason, use controlled amount of cornstarch powder. You can always add more if you have heated for the recommended duration yet you have not achieved the target thickness.
Also, worth noting is the fact that wheat flour can also be used as an excellent thickening substitute. You don’t have to worry if you run out of cornstarch powder while you are mid preparations.
Chinkiang vinegar is a great substitute to rice vinegar. Scallions can be used for fragrance. If you can’t get hoisin sauce, you can use sriracha and barbecue sauce as an alternative.
General Tso’s Chicken
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General Tso’s Chicken is a favorite Chinese food takeout choice that is sweet and slightly spicy with a kick from garlic and ginger.
General Tso’s Chicken was one of my favorite college days late night Chinese food delivery orders. The spicier, zestier less popular cousin to the ever popular Orange Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken is a fantastic option when you’re looking to change up your Chinese food routine.
General Tso’s Chicken can sometimes have recipes that are really complicated and with many different breading steps. I eliminated them going to a simple cornstarch coating, but you can definitely do a thicker typical breading if you would like, like I did in my Orange Chicken recipe. Also, the addition of the hoisin sauce may seem small and you may want to skip it because it isn’t a normal pantry item unless you are used to doing Asian cooking, but the flavor is that specific General Tso’s Chicken flavor that you’ll miss without it.
Looking for some other Chinese food takeout options for dinner? Well aside from the long list of Panda Express menu items on the site, here is a list of delicious meals waiting to be made!
How To Make General Tso&rsquos Chicken:
What does General Tso Chicken mean?
This chicken dish is named after a Chinese military general by the name of Zuo Zongtang but isn&rsquot really connected with the dish itself. Perhaps Chinese Restaurants named the chicken dish General Tso&rsquos Chicken to set a Chinese mood at an Asian eatery. because the dish does go by different names.
Some variant names include General Tso Chicken, General Tsao&rsquos chicken, General Tao&rsquos chicken, General T&rsquos Chicken, General Ching&rsquos chicken, T.S.O. Chicken, and General Jong&rsquos Chicken.
What&rsquos the difference between General Tso&rsquos Chicken and Sesame Chicken?
The main difference is the heat! General Tso&rsquos Chicken is spicier and more orange in color than Sesame Chicken. Sesame chicken is more savory, brown, and salty and typically covered in sesame seeds once garnished. Although General Tso&rsquos Chicken is a little spicy it is much sweeter than Sesame chicken, which balances out the flavors quite well. I do not find this dish too spicy unless you eat the whole red chili pepper found in the sauce at times (depending on the Chinese Restaurant.)
Is General Tso&rsquos Chicken Spicy?
I do not find this dish too spicy unless you eat the whole red chili pepper found in the sauce at times (depending on the Chinese Restaurant.) The sweetness definitely overpowers the heat.
How to Make Crispy Chicken Batter?
Deep-fried chicken is the key to crispy chicken and a good breading or batter. Some Asian places use tempura batter, and I&rsquove found flour or cornstarch to work well in Chicken recipes like this since the thick sauce covers the fried chicken. Fry the coated chicken pieces in a lot of oil to crisp up the chicken and make sure the breading is dredged into the chicken well. Sometimes partially wet or dipped chicken pieces coat better in breading.
Can I make it gluten-free?
Yes! This can be gluten-free just substitute cornstarch for the flour.
How to make General Tso&rsquos Chicken in a slow-cooker?
To make this in the crockpot, place the fried chicken pieces into the slow cooker. Pour sauce over chicken and keep on low for 6-8 hours or on High for 2-4 hours. I do recommend to slightly simmer the sauce to thicken it.
Can I Bake General Tso&rsquos Chicken?
Yes! Just transfer your fried chicken pieces to a baking dish and pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. The sauce will be runnier using the crockpot or oven version unless cooked slowly for several hours. I recommend simmering the sauce until it thickens before adding.
What is General Tso&rsquos Chicken?
General Tso&rsquos Chicken is a sweet and spicy chicken dish popular in Chinese-American Restaurants. Deep-fried chicken pieces are coated in a sweet sauce with a kick of heat from chili pepper flakes. More orange in color than Sesame chicken it does sometimes have whole dried chili peppers right in the sticky sauce at some takeout locations. It&rsquos not as savory in flavor as Sesame chicken but sweeter and often seen served with a side of steamed broccoli, as seen in some Chinese Takeout Restaurants. Sesame chicken is also known to be covered in lots of sesame seeds whereas General Tso&rsquos is often seen without.
Making homemade General Tso&rsquos Chicken is easy so, don&rsquot be discouraged by any complicated recipes that you&rsquove come across. Homemade is healthier and can save you lots of money in the long run.
This battered chicken dish is typically coated with a sauce and served with a side dish of steamed broccoli or charred bell peppers.
How to Prepare General Tso&rsquos Chicken?
Making a General Tso&rsquos Chicken Recipe at home is so easy! Follow these steps to achieve a 5-star Asian chicken dish at home!
- Make your breading! Season your flour with spices and set aside. (Can use cornstarch for a crispy breading.)
- Cube your chicken into 1-inch chunks, then toss the chicken into flour or a corn starch breading.
- Fry and cook your chicken in batches until golden brown. The chicken will continue to cook in the sauce later.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the pan.
- Now is the time to saute veggies like onion chunks or sweet bell peppers or even fresh garlic, ginger and red chili pepper flakes. Sear veggies until charred looking over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove veggies and add the chicken and sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat until sauce reduces in size and thickens (about 12 minutes.)
- The chicken will be coated in a glossy sweet sauce. Serve over rice and the charred veggies (if using.)
Broccoli Side: place a colander of broccoli florets onto the simmering pot of General Tso&rsquos Chicken. Remove after 7 minutes and you&rsquoll have a side of steamed broccoli!
Spices: Intensify the sauce with dried or fresh garlic and ginger.
What is Sesame Chicken?
Sesame chicken is more savory and salty than the orange General Tso&rsquos Chicken. It is darker and less spicy than General Tso&rsquos Chicken and is commonly seen with sesame seeds.
More Asian-Inspired Sides to Serve?
This chicken dish is very saucy so choose veggies, a stir-fry, or some kind of noodles like Lo Mein! Here are some Asian-Dishes to try:
Prepare the chicken:
Marinate the chicken pieces in a bowl with the Shaoxing wine, water, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. Mix until the chicken absorbs all the liquid. Next, add the toasted sesame seeds, all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Stir to coat, and set aside.
You can buy boneless chicken thighs or for a more economical choice, see our post on How to debone skin-on chicken thighs and use the bones to make your own chicken stock.
Now, for those of you who like your General Tso’s Chicken made in a truly classic takeout fashion—heavy on the coating, minimal on the actual chicken—you can add an egg and double the flour and cornstarch at this step. If you go this route, be sure to extend frying times to ensure the coating and the chicken are fully cooked through. We know some folks like to bite into extra chewy fried dough coating—or maybe have gotten used to it!
Prepare the General Tso Sauce:
Mix together the low-sodium chicken stock, dark soy sauce, regular soy sauce, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar in a bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.
Blanch the broccoli:
In a wok or pot, boil 6 cups water, and blanch the broccoli for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on whether you like your broccoli soft or crunchy.
Drain in a colander and set aside. To keep it super green, you can also transfer them to an ice bath, and then drain and set aside.
Fry the chicken & assemble the dish:
Heat the frying oil in a small but deep pot to 335F/170C. Carefully drop the chicken pieces into the oil in small batches. Make sure the chicken is thoroughly coated with the batter/sesame seeds on all sides before frying.
The chicken should float at the top of the oil. Fry until light golden brown (about 5 minutes) and transfer to a wire rack or plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Be sure to manage the oil temperature using a thermometer , as it will drop every time you add raw chicken. Continue frying in batches. Once all of the chicken has been fried once, fry the chicken a second time for 3 to 5 minutes until super crispy. Be careful not to burn it!
Here are some extra tips for frying the chicken:
- The chicken will become somewhat soft after the first round of frying. Frying a second time makes the chicken nice and crispy, just like the restaurants serve! Again, deep frying is preferable.
- Select a small pot to use for frying, but make sure the oil does not fill the pot more than halfway (so the oil does not spill over during frying). To conserve oil, you can fry in more batches with as little as 2 inches of oil in a smaller pot.
- Be extra careful when you drop the chicken into the hot oil. Do it slowly so it does not splash.
- Try to place the chicken pieces into the hot oil one at a time and not too close together, so they don’t stick.
Ok, back to the rest of the recipe:
Heat a clean wok over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil along with the dried chilies.
Cook the chili peppers for about 5 seconds. Add the minced garlic and Shaoxing wine.
Next, add the General Tso’s Chicken sauce you prepared earlier.
Bring the sauce to a simmer, and stir in the cornstarch slurry until it thickens to a glossy sauce. Add the chicken and broccoli, and toss until everything is coated in the sauce.
Plate and serve immediately with steamed rice!
Looking for more recipes?
Here’s a handful of some of our other best-loved Chinese restaurant chicken dishes!
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