A documentary film about Chinese food in America



This mouthwateringly entertaining film travels the globe to unravel a captivating culinary mystery. General Tso’s chicken is a staple of Chinese-American cooking, and a ubiquitous presence on restaurant menus across the country. But just who was General Tso? And how did his chicken become emblematic of an entire national cuisine? Director Ian Cheney (King Corn, The City Dark) journeys from Shanghai to New York to the American Midwest and beyond to uncover the origins of this iconic dish, turning up surprising revelations and a host of humorous characters along the way. Told with the verve of a good detective story,The Search for General Tso is as much about food as it is a tale of the American immigrant experience. A Sundance Selects release from IFC Films.


In theaters


As adapted by the crew of The Search for General Tso
With thanks to our sources of inspiration: Chef C.K. Peng | Chef T.T. Wang | Restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld | Fuchsia Dunlop, author of Every Grain of Rice | Diana Kuan, of appetiteforchina.com | J. Kenji López-Alt and the Food Lab of seriouseats.com



1 pound boneless chicken thighs
(Chef Peng leaves the skin on — up to you!)

GMO-free canola oil, for deep-frying
(General Tso didn’t eat GMOs, why should you?)

1 T peanut oil

1 1/4 cups corn starch, plus 1 tsp
(Fuchsia Dunlop uses potato flour, fun if you can find it!)

1 egg
(General Tso likely preferred organic eggs)

2 T soy sauce, divided
(You’ll use 1 T for the marinade, and 1 T for the sauce)

Dozen dried whole red chilies

1 T tomato paste

1 T rice vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

Dash of sugar or tsp of honey
(Chef Peng would not approve.)

Dash of chili paste or hot sauce
(Spice it up as you see fit.)

1/4 cup Chicken Stock
(Sequel: The Search for General Tso’s Chicken Stock?)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 T ginger, minced



Orange zest, plus orange slice for garnish
(Only if you live in CA; then you’re making Orange Chicken)

Sesame Seeds
(This more or less turns it into Sesame Chicken.)

No scallions! Or some! Sliced on the bias.
(Chef Peng serves his up sans scallions, but add if you like.)

Broccoli, steamed
(Chef Peng would not approve, but standard in America.)



  1. Crack the egg dramatically into a bowl and stir it up, ideally while filming the whole business in slow motion. If you can get someone to hit a crash cymbal while you crack the egg, that’s ideal but not absolutely necessary. Add 1T soy sauce and stir.
  2. Cut the chicken into 1 inch chunks, and swirl ‘em around in the egg-soy marinade. Leave that be for long enough to make yourself a General Tso’s Cocktail, of your own invention!
  3. Mix up the sauce in a separate bowl: 1 T soy, 1 T tomato paste, 1 T rice vinegar, 1/4 cup Chicken Stock, 1 tsp sesame oil, a bit of sugar if you like, 1 tsp corn starch. There’s room for adaptation here. Don’t be alarmed if it feels too thin and watery. Once you cook it, the starch will thicken things up and you’ll be in gooey Tso heaven.
  4. Break a few of the chilis in half, discarding some seeds if you don’t like the spice, leave a few of the chilis intact because why the heck not.
  5. Remove the chicken from its marinade, and toss it in a bowl with the corn starch, getting it all nice and coated.
  6. Heat up the cooking oil in the wok, to around 350 ° or 375°.
  7. Fry the chicken in batches, get the nuggets nice and golden, then remove and drain on a wire rack
    over some paper towels. Be careful not to light any of this on fire.
  8. Pour the oil off into another container (something that won’t melt…) and save for subsequent batches.
    Wipe out the wok with a paper towel.
  9. Turn the heat back on and add your 1 T peanut oil and the chilis, quickly stir-frying them for 10
    seconds or so — careful, they can burn easily. Add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for maybe 15-20
    seconds, then add the sauce and stir it up for a minute or so.
  10. Once the sauce is looking gooey, add the chicken and swirl it around to coat. You can also toss the
    chicken chunks up in the air, allowing ribbon of sauce to fly all over your kitchen. Point is: marry the
    sauce and the chicken.
  11. Add any optional accoutrements, and serve it up!