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General Tso's Chicken: Things You Might Not Know About the Chinese Dish

Updated on March 3, 2020
revmjm profile image

Margaret Minnicks is a health-conscious person who researches the health benefits of foods and drinks.

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Thousands of Americans eat General Tso's chicken because it is one of the most popular dishes on the Chinese restaurant's menu. The delicious dish contains deep-fried chicken chunks that have been coated with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions, and hot chili peppers.

All of that makes for a good dish. Who was General Tso, and why is a Chinese-American chicken dish named after him?

Who Was General Tso?

General Tso Tsungtang never ate the dish named after him. He was born on November 10, 1812, and died on September 5, 1885, long before the dish was invented.

The military officer served during China's greatest civil war and was said to be a very ruthless leader.

Why the Food Is Called General Tso's Chicken

Why is a food name after a man who never ate it? Food writer Fuscia Dunlop wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2007 that the dish was invented by a chef named Peng Chang-kuei in the 1950s in Taiwan.

At that time Peng's invention was a traditional Hunanese spicy, salty, and sour. It wasn’t sweet at all, but the dish was a hit at his restaurant in Taipei. In 1973, Peng moved to New York City and opened one of the first Hunanese restaurants in America on 44th Street. Because it was new to the area, Chef Peng offered the dish as a house special to get more people to try it. Once they did, they fell in love with it.

Peng's restaurant was close to the United Nations headquarters, and he received a lot of business from politicians who became regular customers, including Henry Kissinger who helped make the restaurant a success.

About General Tso's Chicken

The popular chicken dish is made of sweet and spicy chunks of deep-fried chicken tossed in a sweet, sticky, spicy, and tangy sauce. The ingredients are used in many other stir-fry Chinese dishes. It's considered to be a poor man's dish instead of a feast fit for a king.

While the dish is popular in Chinese restaurants in North America, surprisingly it is hard to find in restaurants in China.

Source

General Tso's Chicken Today

Peng used his culinary skills to transform the dish into one that would appeal more to American palates of the time. It became so popular that chefs all around the country began to copy his recipe.

Up until that time, Peng had not named his famous dish. It had become popular without a name. When the chef decided to finally name it, Peng said there was no rhyme or reason why he named his dish General Tso's chicken. He said that was the first name that just popped into his head. It was probably because the general and Peng were from the same town.

During the 1950s when Peng first invented the dish, it was nothing like the version most Americans know. Today, the dish is a sweet, crispy dish that is in almost every Chinese restaurant in North America. If you go to a Chinese restaurant and the dish is not on the menu, then go to another restaurant.

General Tso's Chicken On a Bed of Rice
General Tso's Chicken On a Bed of Rice | Source

For the Health Conscious

General Tso's chicken is usually served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce. The dish is very delicious when served over rice along with crunchy steamed broccoli.

A standard serving of four ounces of the dish has 1,300 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat and 3,200 mg. of sodium. The good news is that the calories are only half your daily allowance, and the fat is 70-80 percent of your fat allowance. The bad news is that the sodium is twice your daily sodium allowance. Most people do not eat the entire container of the meal at once. Instead, the split it up into two meals for lunch and dinner or for a meal another day.

Do you eat General Tso's chicken?

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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      21 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Leland, I treated myself to General Tso's chicken today. It was so delicious and enough for a second helping later this evening.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      21 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Jan Michael Ong, I love finding out tidbits about foods. General Tso's chicken is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. So, I wanted to know how it got its name, only to discover that it was named after the general long after his death. Therefore, Tso never ate the dish named in his honor,

    • Jan Michael Ong profile image

      Jan Michael Ong 

      21 months ago from Metro Manila, Philippines

      General Tso is actually a real person. Nice to know about the dish from a historical perspective.

    • Leland Johnson profile image

      Leland Johnson 

      21 months ago from Midland MI

      Margaret- General Tso's chicken is far and away my favorite Chinese dish. Poor General Tso...I wonder if he knew history would know him for an association with delicious chicken rather than military exploits? I had to look away from the photos because they were making me hungry ;) I enjoyed this article. It was well written, fun, and informative like all your articles.

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