Monday, April 27, 2009

General Tso's Chicken

Who is General Tso? Why is there a chicken recipe named after him? Here's what Wikipedia says:

It is unclear how the dish came to bear the name of Zuo Zongtang (左宗棠, 1812–1885), a Qing Dynasty general from Hunan. Zuo himself is unlikely ever to have tasted the dish.[2] The dish is not found in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. Nor is it found in Xiangyin, the home of General Tso. Moreover, descendants of General Tso still living in Xiangyin, when interviewed, say that they have never heard of such a dish.[4]

There are several stories concerning the origin of the dish. In her book The Chinese Kitchen, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo states that the dish originates from a simple Hunan chicken dish, and that the reference to "Zongtang" in "Zuo Zongtang chicken" was not a reference to Zuo Zongtang's given name, but rather a reference to the homonym "zongtang", meaning "ancestral meeting hall" (Chinese: 宗堂; pinyin: zōngtáng). [5] Consistent with this interpretation, the dish name is sometimes (but considerably less commonly) found in Chinese as "Zuo ancestral hall chicken" (traditional Chinese: 左宗堂雞; simplified Chinese: 左宗堂鸡; pinyin: Zuǒ Zōngtáng jī). (Chung tong gai is a transliteration of “ancestral meeting hall chicken” from Cantonese; Zuǒ Zōngtáng jī is the standard name of General Tso's chicken as transliterated from Mandarin.)

According to several sources, the recipe was invented by Taiwan-based, Hunan cuisine chef Peng Chang-kuei (Chinese: 彭長貴; pinyin: Péng Chánggùi), who had been an apprentice of Cao Jingchen's, a famous early 20th century Chinese chef. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets' chef and fled with Chiang Kai-shek's forces to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. There, he continued his career as official chef until 1973, when he moved to New York to open a restaurant. It is there that Peng started inventing new dishes and modifying traditional ones; one new dish, General Tso's chicken, was originally prepared without sugar, and subsequently altered to suit the tastes of "non-Hunanese people." The popularity of the dish has now led to it being "adopted" by local Hunanese chefs and food writers, perhaps as an acknowledgment of the dish's unique status, upon which the international reputation of Hunanese cuisine was largely based.[1][4] Ironically, when Peng opened a restaurant in Hunan in the 1990s introducing General Tso's chicken, the restaurant closed without success because the locals found the dish too sweet.[4]

Here's a light version of the standard General Tso's Chicken- lower in fat, carbs, sodium and calories.

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 T. cornstarch
1 egg white
1 T. dry sherry
1 T lite soy sauce
1 t. dark sesame oil or canola oil
1 t. sugar
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. white pepper
2 T. canola oil or peanut oil
1 ( 1-in. piece) fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
2 green onions with tops, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Cut chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch wide strips. Combine chicken and cornstarch in large bowl. Add egg white; stir to combine. Set aside.

2. Combine sherry, soy sauce, 1 t. sesame oil, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and white pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat wok or large skillet over high heat about 1 minute or until hot. Drizzle 2 T. canola or peanut oil into wok and heat 3 seconds. Add chicken; stir-fry until chicken is no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken from wok and keep warm. Reduce heat to medium.

4. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add green bell pepper and green onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Return chicken to wok. Add sherry mixture; stir-fry until well mixed and heated through.

YIELD: 4 servings

Calories from Fat..37%
Total Fat.........9 g
Sat. Fat..........1 g
Carb..............7 g
Cholesterol......68 mg
Sodium..........364 mg

If you like this blog, please look for my other blogs:
Thyme for Herbs
Happenstance House
Tickling the Ivories


Mildred said...

Hi Jane Marie, This is one of our family's favorites. Thanks for the recipe.
How is the sale of your home going? Have you located anything that you like yet?

flowrgirl1 said...

That is my boyfriends favorite. Cool story.

Jane Marie said...

Mildred, No, we haven't sold yet. It's been for sale for three months now. We have found a house we like and are anxious to buy so I wish ours would sell soon. Thanks for asking.

flowrgirl1, I'm glad you enjoyed the tale!