General Tso’s Chicken is a signature dish of Hunan cuisine that is served in many Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t'ang) (1812-1885), a native of Hunan Province, was a renowned military strategist and statesman who spearheaded the Westernization Movement during the late Qing Dynasty. He played a prominent role in many major events at that time, including the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion and the 1867 riot in Shaanxi and Gansu, and the retrieval of the Xinjiang territory from Tsarist Russia.
Legend has it that after one of his military victories, Zuo’s wife made a chicken dish for him as a family celebration. Spicy and crispy, it was of the typical Hunan flavor that Zuo loved best. He asked his wife to make more of the food to share with his soldiers, who gratefully referred to it as General Tso's Chicken. The recipe later found its way across the country.
General Tso's Chicken is one of the favorite Chinese dishes of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and became more widely known in America after featuring in an ABC program. Within days of the broadcast, the station received 1,500 letters soliciting the recipe. It soon became a popular dish in Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
The basic ingredient of General Tso's Chicken is free-range chicken drumstick meat. Cut the meat into cubes and marinade in salt and cornstarch for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a pan to 160oC. Fry the chicken until it turns golden. Drain and set aside. Add more oil to the pan and stir-fry minced ginger and garlic and dry red pepper on a low heat until the fried ingredients release their aroma. Add a mixture of salt, white vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, and then the chicken; stir-fry for two minutes before adding liquid starch. Finally, add a drizzle of pepper oil and sesame oil, and the dish is ready to be served.