RECIPE: General Tso’s Chicken
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!)
(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)
(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.)
(Chef Peng would not approve, but standard in America.)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove the chicken from its marinade, and toss it in a bowl with the corn starch, getting it all nice and coated.
- Heat up the cooking oil in the wok, to around 350 ° or 375°.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add any optional accoutrements, and serve it up!