General Tso’s Chicken is a North American Chinese food favourite! Fried, crispy, battered chicken is tossed in a sweet and spicy garlic and ginger sauce. Serve with extra sesame seeds and lots of rice for a great take out dinner made at home!
It’s no secret that I love sauce. Any dish prepared with sauce is always going to be a personal favourite of mine. General Tso’s Chicken is no exception!
I still remember the first time I tried it. There was a little red chili icon next to the name on the restaurant menu. I was a bit nervous, because I thought it was going to be too spicy for me. Even though the heat was slightly noticeable, it wasn’t too prevalent at all. The chicken was served with a side of steamed broccoli, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for eating the entire serving!
Now, I would be doing you an injustice if I didn’t highlight some of my other chicken recipes. All of these mimic the type you’d find at your favourite Chinese take out restaurants. You have to try my Sweet Chili Chicken and my Lemon Chicken. And, don’t forget my Sesame Chicken or my Szechuan Popcorn Chicken.
WHO IS GENERAL TSO?
Get this, Dear Reader – no one knows! Here’s the scoop. General Tso’s chicken is a sweet deep-fried chicken dish that is served in North American Chinese restaurants. The dish is named after Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader. However, there is no recorded connection to him. And, furthermore, the dish is not known in Hunan, Zuo’s home province.
Here’s where it get’s weird. Zuo could not have eaten the dish or known of it. The dish is found neither in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, nor in Xiangyin County, where Zuo was born. Moreover, Zuo’s descendants, who are still living in Xiangyin County, when interviewed, say that they have never heard of such a dish.
There are all kinds of competing claims and they are discussed in the 2014 documentary film The Search for General Tso. I need to find that documentary to see if it can clarify anything!
WHICH CHOICE OF CHICKEN WORKS BEST?
For General Tso’s Chicken, I would highly recommend either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast. I love working with chicken thighs. No matter what cooking method I throw at them, they always come out tender and moist. I’m also a fan of dark meat.
You can use breast meat for this recipe too. Because breast meat tends to cook faster than dark meat, you’ll want to ensure that the breast meat is cut into one inch chunks.
Breast meat can dry out rather quickly, especially if you’re planning to immerse it into hot oil. Using a larger piece of the breast meat will ensure that it doesn’t become over done and too dry. There’s nothing worse than dry breast meat!
Unlike chicken breast, you can cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into smaller pieces. They don’t have to be perfectly even. My rule of thumb is as follows: fry the thigh meat until golden brown. It’s really that simple.
In this particular case, I’m using boneless, skinless chicken breast. It’s a healthier and leaner option. It allows me to feel less guilty about the sugar and the sodium!
PREP IS KEY!
If you take a few minutes to set everything up first, it will take all of the guesswork out of preparing General Tso’s Chicken. I like to cut the chicken and get it tossed into the batter mixture. I let that sit for a few minutes while I get the sauce ready.
For the sauce, which takes minutes – literally! – it’s a good idea to have all of the ingredients standing by and ready to go. That means having the garlic and ginger minced, the brown sugar, hoisin sauce, and water measured out. And they slurry should be ready too.
The longest part of this sauce recipe is the cooking of the garlic and ginger. Even that is two minutes! After that, it requires your full attention, because it’s super fast. Now, are you ready for the most amazing chicken dish ever???
General Tso’s Chicken
For the Chicken:
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into one inch pieces
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- vegetable oil for frying
For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
For the Chicken:
- Place the prepared chicken in a large bowl. Pour over the beaten egg and stir until the chicken is well coated.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Add to the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside.
- In a large pot, add enough vegetable oil so that there is at least 3 inches of oil. Over medium-high heat, bring the oil to optimum frying temperature which is 350°F.
- Fry the chicken in batches. Don't overcrowd the pot. Fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on a wire cooling rack to drain.
- When the chicken is done, set in a pre-heated 250°F oven to stay warm.
For the Sauce:
- In a large skillet, prepare the sauce by adding the vegetable oil, garlic, and ginger. Over medium heat, fry the garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the dried red chili flakes, water, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, and both soy sauces. Whisk to combine and bring to a low boil.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and the 3 tablespoons of water to make a slurry.
- Pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce and whisk until thick. Remove from heat.
- Add the cooked chicken and toasted sesame seeds to the skillet and toss to coat in the sauce.
- Plate and garnish with green onions.