General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso’s Chicken – that perfect combination of sweet, savoury, spicy and tangy with crispy Chinese Chicken bites. Chinese takeout favourite that’s just all round good! General Tso’s Chicken This is a popular Chinese-American dish that appears in suburban Chinese restaurants in Australia under various other guises. Peking-Style Chicken or sometimes something mysteriously titled House Special... Get the Recipe The post General Tso’s Chicken appeared first on RecipeTin Eats.

General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso’s Chicken – that perfect combination of sweet, savoury, spicy and tangy with crispy Chinese Chicken bites. Chinese takeout favourite that’s just all round good!

Close up of chopsticks picking up a piece of General Tso's Chicken

General Tso’s Chicken

This is a popular Chinese-American dish that appears in suburban Chinese restaurants in Australia under various other guises. Peking-Style Chicken or sometimes something mysteriously titled House Special Crispy Chicken. I can never resist a House Special!

It is said to originate from the Hunan province of China and be named after a well respected Chinese military leader, General Tso.

While the accuracy of either of these statements is questionable – and in fact, rumour has it that it was brought into the US by Taiwanese Chefs (!) – what we do know is that this is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in America and it’s not hard to understand why.

Crispy chicken. Sticky spicy savoury sauce. All good stuff we like!

Overhead photo of General Tso's Chicken in a skillet, fresh off the stove

What goes in General Tso’s Chicken

There’s 3 parts to making General Tso’s Chicken:

  1. Sauce/Marinade – one mixture does double duty to marinade the chicken AND to make the sticky sauce that coats the chicken;
  2. Crispy Chicken – tossed in cornflour/cornstarch then fried in as little or as much oil as you want. No, you don’t need to deep fry for this dish; and
  3. Stir Fry – it’s not really a stir fry dish, but we do saute garlic and ginger at the end before making the sticky sauce to toss the chicken in.

1. Sauce / Marinade

Here’s what you need for the Sauce / Marinade:

  • Chilli – the spiciness in the sauce. I like using Sambal Oelak which is a type of chilli paste sold at everyday supermarkets in Australia but feel free to use your favourite brand (preferably Asian, if you can!);
  • Soy sauce – light or all purpose, just not dark soy sauce (way too strong flavour and will make sauce too dark). More on different soy sauces and when to use which here;
  • Rice vinegar – for the signature touch of tang in General Tso’s Chicken. It has a distinct flavour different to Western vinegars (it’s made from rice – did the name give it away? ????) and it is less sour. Best sub: white wine vinegar;
  • Brown Sugar – for the sweet in the sauce with a touch of caramel. Not loads – just 3 tablespoons. Many other recipes use way too much. This is not a dessert, it’s a meal!
  • Hoisin sauce – the secret ingredient! Adds a hint of extra flavour that takes this recipe from ok to yummo!
  • Sesame oil – for a wonderful hint of sesame flavour;
  • Chicken stock – to give the sauce depth of flavour without using Chinese Cooking Wine (Shaoxing Wine) and to make enough sauce to coat all the chicken; and
  • Cornflour / corsntarch – to thicken the sauce and make it nice and shiny (whereas flour makes sauces non shiny, like with Gravy).

2. The Chicken

For the chicken, you will need two tablespoons of the Sauce we made above for marinading, as well as ginger and garlic for flavour.

Unlike other crispy Chinese fried chicken dishes, such as Honey Chicken, the chicken is not coated with a batter but instead tossed in cornflour/cornstarch to make it crispy. It’s quite similar to the way crispy Sweet and Sour Pork is made – but simpler because chicken pieces are tender and easier to cook than pork.

Best chicken – boneless skinless thighs, because they stay nice and juicy even if you overcook them a bit (which is easy to do if you’re not an experienced fryer). If you want to use chicken breast or tenderloins, see recipe notes for how to tenderise it before cooking using a touch of baking soda/bi-carb – a bit of insurance policy for you (dry overcooked breast is notorious in recipes like this).


3. Making the Sauce

And here’s what you need to cook the Sauce – ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes (chilli flakes). These are sautéed until golden before adding the Sauce.

How to make it

Here’s how to make it:

How to make General Tso's Chicken

  1. Sauce/Marinade – first, mix the Sauce/Marinade. We do this in two parts – first mix all the ingredients except the sugar, chicken stock/broth and the cornflour/cornstarch, then use some to marinade the chicken. THEN mix in the sugar, stock and cornflour – these are Sauce specific things we don’t want to use for the chicken marinade;
  2. Marinate Chicken – then use 2 tablespoons of the Sauce to marinate the chicken for 30 minutes along with fresh garlic and ginger. It’s really nice to add fresh ginger and garlic into the marinade to really get those flavours into the chicken;
  3. Coat chicken in cornflour – just add it into the bowl and mix, making sure the pieces are separate so they are fully coated;
  4. Shake off excess cornflour using whatever method works for you – I’ve started using a colander. Not all the cornflour falls through the holes and that’s ok – it still gives me a means to shake off most of the excess and some chunks just settled at the base. We don’t want a thick layer of cornflour on the chicken because it can make it taste powdery and also you end up with loads of cornflour in the oil which burns unless you scoop it out;
  5. Cook chicken using preferred amount of oil – either shallow fry as I do (which is when the chicken is touching the base of the pan but the oil comes up halfway) or deep fry (which is when there is enough oil so the chicken bobs in the oil). You can even cook it with just a thin layer of oil in the pan but you’ll need to rotate each piece of chicken 4 to 6 times to get all sides crispy – which is a pain!
  6. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Close up of crispy pieces of Chinese fried chicken for General Tso's Chicken

Time to sauce it!

How to make General Tso's Chicken

Next up, time to make the sauce. This part literally takes 3 minutes:

  1. Saute garlic, ginger and chilli flakes until garlic is golden and it smells amazing, then pour the sauce in;
  2. Simmer sauce for 2 minutes until it thickens enough so you can draw a path across the base;
  3. Add chicken;
  4. QUICKLY toss to coat then serve, stat! The faster you get it on the table, the crispier the chicken stays!

Spoon scooping up General Tso's Chicken from a skillet

General Tso’s CRISPY FACTOR

Chicken cooked using this method (ie coated in cornflour) will never be as crispy as when using a more involved batter method, such as with Honey Chicken which stays crispy for hours (and that is no exaggeration!).

But if you want super crispiness, just use the batter method in Honey Chicken and the sauce from General Tso’s Chicken!

Close up showing inside of a piece of General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken served over white rice with Chinese tea on the side

What to serve with General Tso’s Chicken

Serve on rice with some greens on the side. For me, Ginger Smashed Cucumber Salad is just the sort of refreshing side I’d serve for a dish like this. Otherwise, any fresh salad, leafy greens or steamed greens with my reliable Asian Sesame Dressing.

For a larger banquet, try adding some extra dishes such as one of these:

Let me know when you’re planning that banquet and I’ll be there in a flash! ????– Nagi x


Watch how to make it

Close up of chopsticks picking up a piece of General Tso's Chicken
Print

General Tso's Chicken

Recipe video above. That perfect combination of sweet, savoury, spicy and tangy with crispy Chinese Chicken bites. Chinese takeout favourite that's just all round good!
Course Mains, Stir Fries
Cuisine American Chinese, Chinese
Keyword General Tsao's Chicken, General Tso's Chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 - 5 people
Author Nagi

Ingredients

Sauce/Chicken Marinade:

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce - light or all purpose (NOT dark soy, Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar (sub white wine vinegar)
  • 2 tsp chilli paste , any (Sambal Oelak is great)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock/broth , low sodium

Chicken:

  • 600g/ 1.4 lb chicken thighs , boneless skinless, cut into 2.5cm / 1" pieces (breast / tenderloin - Note 2)
  • 1 tsp ginger , finely grated
  • 1 tsp garlic ,finely grated
  • 1 cup cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 - 4 cups oil, for frying (peanut, vegetable or canola)

Stir Fry Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp oil (peanut, vegetable or canola)
  • 2 tsp ginger , finely chopped (Note 3)
  • 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped (Note 3)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (red pepper flakes)

Garnishes (at least 1 recommended):

  • Finely sliced green onion
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Sauce-Marinade: Mix the soy, hoisin, vinegar, chilli and sesame oil.
  • Marinade Chicken: Take out 2 tablespoons of Sauce and mix with chicken. Add ginger and garlic, mix, then marinate 30 minutes.
  • Dust chicken: Add cornflour into chicken, then toss to coat, ensuring pieces are separate so they are fully coated.
  • Shake off excess: Tip into a colander and shake to remove excess cornflour (or grab handfuls, shake so cornflour falls through your fingers).
  • Finish Sauce: To remaining Sauce, add sugar and cornflour. Mix, then add chicken stock and mix. Set aside.
  • Heat oil: Heat 2 cm / 4/5" oil in a deep skillet (or large pot - whatever you’re comfortable with) to 200°C/390°F. To use less, see Note 4.
  • Fry: Cook chicken 3 minutes, turning halfway, until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towel lined plate.
  • New / clean skillet: Discard oil, wipe skillet and return to heat. Or use another large skillet.
  • Stir Fry Sauce: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, saute 30 seconds until garlic is light golden. Add Sauce, bring to simmer until it thickens and you can draw a path across base.
  • Toss! Add chicken, toss to coat quickly - the faster you are, the crispier the chicken stays! Transfer to serving plate, garnish then serve immediately with rice of choice.

Notes

1. Soy sauce - all purpose or light soy is required here. Either is fine, just don't use dark soy sauce (labelled as such) - it will overwhelm flavour and make sauce too dark. More on different soy sauces here.
2. Chicken - thigh is best because you can be assured that it will stay juicy inside, whereas breast is very prone to overcooking and drying out, especially with deep frying because most people aren't that experienced with deep or semi-deep frying.
BREAST & tenderloin - best to tenderise the meat a bit to give yourself a bit of legroom to overcook without drying out. Add 1/4 tsp baking soda (bi-carb) with the Sauce and marinade for 1 hour or even overnight. This is a dialled back method of Tenderising Chicken the Chinese Restaurant Way (using less bicarb and marinating for longer so you don't need to rinse it off).
3. Garlic and ginger - use a microplane or other fine grater for the chicken marinade. For stir frying, you must finely chop with a knife. If you use a garlic press or microplane grater, the garlic and ginger gets too wet and paste-like, so it burns in a flash when stir fried.
4. Amount of oil to use - it's best to use enough oil so it is at least halfway up the side of the chicken (resting on base of pan) so you only need to turn it once to get nice crispy chicken (ie shallow frying). You could also use more oil - enough so the chicken is bobbing in the oil - which will give a more even crispy coating all around (deep frying).
Least oil - just cover the base of the pan with a slick of oil over medium high heat, then cook the chicken for 3 - 4 minutes in total, turning to crispy up as many sides of the chicken as you can (this is a pain, that's why I shallow fry!).
5. Nutrition per serving, excluding rice.

Life of Dozer

He couldn’t believe his eyes when he waddled into the kitchen to find a giant bag of dog food open on the floor…….!!

For those of you who know that I usually feed Dozer a raw food diet – these dog biscuits are special gastrointestinal friendly biscuits after this tummy problems a month or so ago. Just slowly transitioning him back to his normal diet!

Dozer bag of dog food

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