General Tso’s chicken

General Tso’s chicken

Zuo zong tang ji

By
From
Every Grain of Rice
Photographer
Chris Terry

Deep-frying is a method I prefer to avoid for everyday cooking, but this is one of the dishes for which I make an exception. When served, it tends to provoke that moment of rapt, intense silence at the dinner table that is one of the tokens of true appreciation. Slices of chicken thigh meat are first deep-fried in a light batter, then tossed in a sophisticated sweet-sour sauce laced with chilli. General Tso’s chicken is supposedly a Hunanese dish, but it’s virtually unknown in Hunan Province. It was actually invented by Peng Chang- Kuei, a Hunanese exile chef in Taiwan, and cooked by him in his one-time New York restaurant. It has since been taken so much to the heart of Americans living in the north east that it is now known in the States as the very essence and emblem of Hunanese cuisine. This version of the dish is based on the recipe I learned in Peng Chang-Kuei’s kitchen in Taipei.

The dish is usually made with boned chicken leg meat, although you can use breast if you prefer. Do make sure your wok is stable before using it for deep-frying: it’s important to use a wok stand with a round-bottomed wok.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 boneless chicken thighs, (about 350g)
6-10 small dried red chillies
cooking oil, for deep-frying
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon spring onion greens, thinly sliced, (optional)

For the marinade/batter

Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons potato flour
2 teaspoons cooking oil

For the sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon potato flour
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon clear rice vinegar
3 tablespoons stock
or 3 tablespoons water

Method

  1. Unfold the chicken thighs and lay them, skin side down, on a chopping board. (If some parts are very thick, lay your knife flat and slice them across in half, parallel to the board.) Use a sharp knife to make a few shallow criss-cross cuts into the meat; this will help the flavours to penetrate. Then cut each thigh into 3–4 cm slices, an uneven 1/2 cm or so in thickness. Place the slices in a bowl.
  2. For the marinade, add the soy sauces and egg yolk to the chicken and mix well. Then stir in the potato flour, and lastly the oil. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Use a pair of scissors to snip the chillies into 2 cm sections, discarding seeds as far as possible.
  5. Heat a wok over a high flame. Pour in the deep-frying oil and heat to 180–200°C. Add the chicken and fry until crisp and golden. (If you are deep-frying in a wok with a relatively small volume of oil, fry the chicken in a couple of batches.) Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and clean the wok if necessary.
  6. Return the wok to a high flame. Add 2–3 tablespoons cooking oil and the chillies and stir-fry briefly until they are fragrant and just changing colour (do not burn them). Toss in the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds more, until you can smell their aromas. Then add the sauce and stir as it thickens. Return the chicken to the wok and stir vigorously to coat the pieces in sauce. Stir in the sesame oil, then serve, with a scattering of spring onion greens if desired.
Tags:
Chinese
Sichuanese
Asian
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