Monday, August 6, 2007

It's Tso Good

I've inherited my fair share of knick-knacks, trinkets, and baubles. Sometimes I know right away that they're junk and let the kids have them to play with. But some things I wonder, "Hmm, this could be worth something."

It's the Hmmm factor that gets me sucked into watching The Antiques Roadshow. I love the people standing in snaking lines waiting to see if their great-uncle Leopold's violin really is a Stradaverius (not), if the stool they bought at a garage sale for $10 is worth more than that (yes, by several thousand dollars), or if the painting they found stashed in the back of the attic is really a lost Van Gogh (not).

There are such interesting items that people bring out to have evaluated - an chest of antique dental tools, an ornately carved folding table, or a Civil War era cloth doll. Usually there is a story attached to the items, indicating their age and provenance. I love the part where the antique dealer tells what he's found out about the piece, including historical tidbits about the time, and then breaking the news to the owner about the worth of the item. Shocked, overjoyed, or crestfallen, each face is priceless.

If there were a culinary Antiques Roadshow, one dish that definitely would need to have it's bona fides inspected would be General Tso's chicken. It's a staple on the menu at almost every Chinese restaurant, but one wonders, "Who was General Tso? What was it with him and chicken? And if he was a great general, why did he have time to hang out in the kitchen inventing new dishes?" The answer, as I found here, is that there was a real General Tso, but he had nothing to do with the dish bearing his name. It's the invention of a New York chef in the early 1970's, and it was so popular that it's been endlessly copied.

I knew this dish couldn't be authentic because I have all the ingredients in my pantry and it's easy, although time-consuming, to make. But it does relieve the angst I have about making a dish from another culture. Am I doing it right? Is it authentic? Well, this dish is authentically American, so I can honor General Tso with pride!

(Note: before you charge into the kitchen to make this, note that it takes a LOT of vegetable oil and cornstarch. Be sure you have enough before beginning.)

General Tso’s Chicken

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 tsp minced ginger
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1 1/2 cup hot chicken broth

3 lbs. chicken thigh meat, deboned and cut into chunks
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 egg
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cup sliced green onions
16 Small Hot Dried Peppers

To make Sauce, mix cornstarch and water together. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and wine. Then add broth and stir til sugar dissolves. Refrgerate till needed. This can be done ahead of time.

In separate bowl mix chicken, soy sauce and pepper. Stir in egg. Add conrstarch until chicken is coated evenly. Add oil to help separate chicken pieces. Divide chicken in small quantities and deep-fry at 350° F. until crispy and light brown. Do not overcook; watch temp, stir fry or meat will toughen. Drain on rack, then remove to paper towels.

Place a small amount of oil in wok and heat til just hot. Add onions and peppers and stir-fry briefly (peppers will give off acrid smoke... be careful). Stir sauce; add to wok. Add chicken and cook just til sauce thickens. Add water or water/cornstarch if needed.

Discard red peppers, or warn your diners not to eat them.

This amount will fill two large platters and serves 6-8. Serve with white or brown steamed rice.

Makes 8 Servings


eatme_delicious said...

I had never heard of this dish until a couple of years ago. I don't think I've seen it on the menu of any Chinese restaurant in Canada! Well not that I've been to them all but my Chinese friends hadn't heard of the dish either. Anyway, it's been something I've been wanting to try since I've seen how popular it is, so thanks for the recipe. I hope it turns out okay with tofu!

Jerry said...

Hmmmm Chinese Food! I'll send you muffins for this!

Melinda said...

Does your daughter do all your pictures? They are always so good!
This one, makes me want to open my mouth, so you can feed me a tiny taste.
Cruel photography, for sure!

Anh said...

This must be a wonderful dish! I love chicken coooked this way, so this is a must try for me.

Ellie said...

Hmm, I'm trying to think of what this dish might be called here in Australia but I don't think I've ever seen it's likeness on a menu here before! It looks and sounds quite delightful, and judging by the ingredients in the sauce, I'm doubting that even General Tso would decline a second helping!

Big Boys Oven said...

Ain't that look so lovely. So gorgeous and yet look so easy.

Anne said...

My! this dish looks so scrumptious...and looks easy for me to do. I'd love to give this recipe a try :)

Blue Zebra said...

My dear, brilliant gastronome friend! You make reading so much fun! You're piccys are delights to the eyes and I think I can actually smell General Tsao from here...oh wait, my bad! ;) *blush*! But I will be smelling it for dinner, the Good Lord and DH willing to go to the store! ;)

Thanks for this very fun entry!

Brilynn said...

I love general tso's chicken but I've never made it myself. There's a place in chinatown that I always get it from.

Kelly-Jane said...

This looks really good, I'd like it for sure!

Anonymous said...

Your food pics look absolutely divine,am sure the food must have taste as good as it looks too...yum yum...
Wanna say thank you for all the lovely photos of nature,showcasing those fruits,it will be a wonderful learning journey for my ger in yrs to come as staying in sg,we dont such beauties growing here...Thanks once again for the inspiring learning photos..


Anonymous said...

hey.great blog.great food.
just a little something.
you might not want to stick them in the rice.
to the chinese this is almost taboo.
as it resembles joss sticks (prayer incense stick). that are stuck in a pot of ash for praying.
so yeah.
haha.continute cooking (;