Chicken School

General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso’s chicken is undoubtedly one of the most iconic dishes featured in North American Chinese restaurants.

Who can resist tender chicken pieces, battered and fried to golden perfection and smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce? You would be hard pressed to find a Chinese restaurant that does not have this tantalizing dish the menu.

Interestingly, what we have come to recognize as the archetype of Chinese cuisine actually has its roots in North America, and is rarely eaten in China. While the origin of the recipe is still debated, it is generally accepted that General Tso’s chicken was adapted from traditional Chinese chicken recipes to appeal to North American tastes, drawing on Chinese flavourings like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, dried chillies, and garlic, and intensifying the sweetness. This type of flavour layering – combining sweet, savoury, tangy, and spicy – is one of the reasons General Tso’s is such a popular dish. Each flavour complements and heightens the next, making each mouthful a satisfying one.

And the name? General Tso’s chicken is said to be named after Zuo Zongtang, a 19th century military leader from the Chinese province of Hunan, who would never have tasted this dish as it is known today. No doubt he would have loved it, though!

Interested in trying your hand at this classic? This recipe is adapted to be accessible to the cook at home, and does not require a deep fryer or any ingredients that can’t be found at your local grocery store.