Tonight I was trying to figure out what to make with a nearly empty fridge. All I had was some leftover tofu. I was searching for recipes and I came across this recipe for General Tso’s Chicken. Luckily I had all the ingredients for the sauce and some frozen vegetable in the freezer to go with it.
I am really happy I made this dish. The sauce was really delicious. Although this dish isn’t the healthiest it has rich flavors and so you don’t need to eat a lot of it. It went really well with steamed rice and stir fried veggies.
General Tso’s Chicken is a popular Chinese dish, which is you can find in Chinese restaurants across North America. It consists of deep-fried chicken, breaded with eggs and cornstarch, with a thick sweet and mild spicy sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG. I have never see this dish in any Chinese restaurants in Australia or heard of it before, but it does have an interesting history.
So who was the man that this dish was famously named after? General Tso Tsung-tang (左宗棠 or Zuo Zongtang) was a general and statesmen from Hunan, during the Qing dysnasty. He famously served his country during the dynasties civil war again the Taiping Rebellion, founded modern arsenal, dockyard, new efficient logistics systems; pushed Russian forces out of China and held many positions in the China’s government.
This dish was not a traditional dish that was created for General Tso when he was alive, nor is a traditional dish in the region that he comes from. Even the people from his home town, and his living descendants haven’t heard of this dish. Rather this dish was created in the late 20th century and named after General Tso for his historical significance.
Who actually invented this dish? Well there are a few different theories and claims that have been made. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, who wrote The Chinese Kitchen, claims that this dish is actually adapted from the humble Hunan chicken, which is known as Zongtang. This translates to ‘ancestral meeting hall’ in Cantonese and does not refer to Zuo Zongtang. Another claim is that the dish was created by Taiwan-based Hunan cuisine chef, Peng Chang-kuei. In the 1970’s he moved to New York, and began experimenting with old dishes and creating new ones. Apparently he adapted this traditional dish to please local American tastes, by adding sugar. The last claim is from a New York Chinese restaurant that claim that a Chinese immigrant chef who worked for them, T.T. Wang, invented this dish in 1972.
Regardless of the creator of this dish, it is clear that it is an adapted Chinese recipe that was designed to attract local American patrons. Like many other dishes from other cuisines, many Chinese dishes have also been modified by Chinese chefs for local western tastes. Dishes like this one have been deep frying and sweetening and undoubtable bears little resemblance from the dish it was derived from. A typical serving General Tso’s chicken has around 1300 calories, 11 grams of saturated fats and 3200 milligrams of sodium. So its definitely not a everyday dish. Since this version uses tofu, it is a bit healthier then the original, but the sauce still has alot of sodium and sugar added, so it won’t be a regular weekly special on my menu.
General Tso’s Tofu with Brown Jasmine Rice (vegan, gluten free, nut free)
2 cups brown jasmine rice
400g firm tofu
1/2 tablespoon shaoxing wine
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons diced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove , diced
4 dried red chilli, rinsed and deseeded
white part of 2 scallion, diced (optional)
Ingredients for Sauce:
2.5 tablespoons chinese rice vinegar
2.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce or dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
2.5 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar or raw sugar
1/2 tablespoon shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon corn starch
1. Put rice in the rice cooking or cook on stove according to packet instructions.
2. Press tofu, then chop it into cubes. Marinate the tofu in shaoxing wine and sea salt. Leave for 15 mins.
3. Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set to the side.
4. Coat the tofu in corn starch.
5. Heat wok with oil then fry the tofu until golden brown. Place the tofu on a paper towel to drain oil. Remove oil from wok.
6. Add 1.5 tablespoons oil in the wok and add the garlic, ginger and red chili. Cook for 4 mins or until the chili becomes fragrant.
7. Then add the sauce to the wok. Cook until it comes to the boil and comes thick. It took about 10 mins for my sauce to become thick.
8. Add tofu and shallots to the wok. Cook for 2-3 mins then serve immediately with steamed rice and asian greens/stir fry vegetables.
General Tso’s Chicken <http://rasamalaysia.com/general-tsos-chicken/>
General Tso’s chicken <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Tso’s_chicken>
Who Was General Tso? <http://mentalfloss.com/article/28421/who-was-general-tso>
General Tso’s Chicken <http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/general-tsos-chicken/>