Monday, April 9, 2012
General Tso’s Chicken (The Real Deal)
I had to write this in my blog, for I was completely disappointed with what was served tonight as General Tso’s Chicken. It wasn’t even close to what is best described as Tso’s Chicken. Where the person got his recipe for this delightful dish, must have been partially blinded or he just didn’t read. There was no resemblance to the dish’s namesake, in fact it was completely disrespectful and insulting. So here is my recipe for General Tso’s Chicken!
Almost nobody in Hunan has ever heard of General Tso’s Chicken, the most famous Hunan dish in America. Like many other American-Chinese favorite, the roots to China are vague but interesting.
You may know the dish as General Tso’s, or Tzo’s or Tao’s or some other variation. You couldn’t really pronounce the name, but order it anyway at Panda Garden because of its addictiveness. Who cares if it isn’t really Chinese food?
General Tso’s Chicken became popular in America via some enterprisingly Taiwanese chefs who opened Hunan restaurants in New York in the 1970s. Hunan cuisine is traditionally very spicy, full of smoky chilies and pickled vegetables. But to appeal to American diners, the chefs started deep-frying, and sweetening the sauces. They improved upon each other’s crispy chicken dishes until they got a crunchy, sweet, sour, and mildly spicy coating.
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ c. cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
8 dried whole red chilies, or substitute ¼ tsp. dried red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. white sesame seeds, for garnish
Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 egg whites
¼ c. chicken stock, or substitute water
1 ½ tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. chili paste
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and egg whites. Coat the chicken to the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, sugar, and the 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set the sauce aside.
In a large bowl or deep plate, toss the 1 ½ cups cornstarch with the salt and pepper. Coat the marinated chicken in the cornstarch and shake off any excess before frying. Heat the 3 cups of peanut or vegetable oil in your wok until it registers 350 on an instant-read oil thermometer. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. Drain the oil into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any brown bits, but don’t wash. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilies and garlic to the wok and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with white sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with white rice and vegetables.