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General Tso Chicken Recipe

March 31st, 2007

This is one of my favorite recipes; I might as well post it here just in case anyone wants to try it. I like to cook this one for lunch and/or dinner quite regularly. I got the idea of trying to make my own version of General Tso Chicken back in 1998 when I worked as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant.

While I was there, I paid particular attention to how the cooks made the batter for the Sweet and Sour Chicken (which also doubled as “Fried Boneless Chicken” on the buffet) and its derivatives, and was able to successfully replicate this at home. Later, I put together my own mix of ingredients for the sauce, and then modified it somewhat over the years until I came up with something that was very similar in appearance and taste to most of the restaurant versions of General Tso Chicken that I have eaten before.

Several months ago, one of my online friends sent me an email wanting to know how I managed to make this particular meal at home, so I eventually got around to creating a written recipe for the procedure and sent it to him in one of my replies. Fortunately, after I finished composing the text, the idea occurred to me that I might want to save it on my computer for future reference.


Ingredients for the chicken and batter:

  1. 4 pounds chicken pieces, preferably boneless and skinless
  2. 1 quart vegetable, canola, and/or peanut oil for frying
  3. 4 eggs (use 1 egg per pound of chicken)
  4. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  5. 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder or ginger (optional)
  6. 1 1/2 cups cornstarch





Ingredients for the General Tso sauce:

  1. 3 cups ketchup
  2. 1/4 cup chili sauce (use more or less to taste)
  3. 1 cup red wine or rice wine
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar (brown sugar will darken the color of the sauce somewhat)
  5. 1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper, garlic powder, and/or ginger (optional)
  6. 1 bunch (about 8-10) green onions or scallions





Procedure:

Place the oil in the skillet and begin heating it while you are preparing the chicken. Heat up the oil as much as possible without causing it to burn or smoke. This will make the chicken cook much faster and decrease your total cooking time.

Defrost chicken if necessary. The chicken may be cut while it is still partially frozen, but it should be completely thawed by the time you mix it with the batter ingredients. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, soy sauce, and five spice powder or ginger (if available). Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and add this to the egg mixture. Try to remove as much of the skin and fat from the chicken as possible before putting it into the bowl- this will improve the final product considerably!

After all of the chicken has been processed and combined with the egg mixture, add the cornstarch and a small amount of vegetable oil (about 2 tablespoons). Then use your hands (this is the messy part) to thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients in the bowl so that the resulting batter completely coats the chicken. The batter should be thick enough to coat the chicken and remain on the chicken pieces during the frying process, but it should not be so thick that it turns into a sticky paste. If the batter is too thick, you can add in some water to thin it out. If the batter is not thick enough, you can simply add more cornstarch.

When you are satisfied with the consistency of the batter, place the chicken into the hot oil. Try to add the chicken one or two pieces at a time if possible; if you add too many at one time, it will be more difficult to separate the chicken pieces after they have already started cooking. It is also advisable to exercise a certain amount of caution and patience during this step because it is possible for the hot oil to splatter and burn your hands if you try to add the chicken too quickly or from too high above the oil. If the total amount of chicken that you are cooking is about four pounds, you may be able to get it all in with two batches if you have a fairly large skillet; otherwise, you will need to split the chicken into three batches.

After all of the chicken that will fit has been placed into the skillet, use a spatula to separate the pieces as much as possible for more efficient cooking. It is also important to turn the chicken pieces over a few times during the frying process to insure that they are cooked evenly and thoroughly. If the oil has been heated sufficiently beforehand, it will take about 15-20 minutes to cook the chicken completely (batter should be golden brown). If the oil is not hot enough, it may take somewhat longer. When the chicken is done, remove it from the skillet and place it on paper towels (at least four layers thick if you want to keep the oil from seeping through) to drain and cool.

After the chicken has cooled down enough to handle and eat it, it is possible to stop at this point and serve the chicken with some type of prepared dipping sauce. Two of the most common sauces for this are sweet and sour sauce and lemon sauce, thus creating the popular Chinese restaurant dishes of Sweet and Sour Chicken and Lemon Chicken, respectively. If you want to create the full version of General Tso Chicken, simply proceed to the next step.

To make the sauce, use a separate bowl and combine ketchup, wine, and chili sauce. Slowly stir in sugar until dissolved. Sprinkle in black pepper, ginger, and/or garlic powder if desired. When all of the chicken is done, discard the leftover oil and rinse out the skillet. Place all of the sauce into the skillet and heat until it just begins to boil. Stir in chopped green onion if desired. Place as much of the cooked chicken pieces as you wish to serve into the sauce and stir until the chicken is fully coated. You may want to leave some of the chicken out of the sauce and use it to serve with sweet and sour sauce (or another dipping sauce).

After you have finished allocating the chicken pieces to your desired sauces, you are essentially done; the General Tso Chicken may be eaten as is or served with steamed or fried rice. Broccoli florets may be used as a garnish or served as an accompanying side dish. Any leftover portions may be saved in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days if covered, and can be reheated on the stove top or in the microwave. The chicken seems to taste much better while it is still fresh, however, so you will probably want to eat as much as you can!