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