WHAT IS GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN?
General Tso’s Chicken is a sweet-and-spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that is deliciously served in American and Canadian Chinese restaurants. The origins of the dish are unclear, but I would gladly take credit as the creator. The dish was largely unknown in China and best guess is that, General Tso's chicken is most likely an American invention in the history of American Chinese cuisine. Bless his soul whoever created this masterpiece!
The dish is atypical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy, and in my book yucky, and rarely sweet. Instead, the dish is believed to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970's (sad note. This completely puts me out of the running as the creator as I wasn't born until the 1980's...oh how sad.) as an example of Hunan- and Szechuan-style cooking. The dish was first mentioned in The New York Times in 1977.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME.
The association is unclear with General Tso, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman. It is unclear how the dish came to (panda...lol) bear the name of Zuo Zongtang, a Qing Dynasty general from Hunan. Zuo the poor basterd himself, is unlikely ever to have tasted the dish, which I feel is a travesty as everyone should be able to try this deliciousness at least once in their lifetime. The dish is not found in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. Nor is it found in Xiangyin, the home of General Tso. Moreover, descendants of General Tso still living in Xiangyin, when interviewed, say that they have never heard of such a dish. There are several stories concerning the origin of the dish. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (who I have never heard of) states in her book, The Chinese Kitchen that the dish originates from a simple Hunan chicken dish, and that the reference to "Zongtang" in "Zuo Zongtang chicken" was not a reference to Zuo Zongtang's given name, but rather a reference to the homonym "zongtang", meaning "ancestral meeting hall". Consistent with this interpretation, the dish name is sometimes (but considerably less commonly) found in Chinese as "Zuo ancestral hall chicken". Now that just wouldn't sound right imagine that as the hook of this song...
Zou Ancestral Hall Chicken... Chick,
Zou Ancestral Hall Chickeeeeeennn!!!
It doesn't quite have the same rythmn to it.
The recipe was invented by Taiwan-based, Hunan cuisine chef Peng Chang-kuei who had been an apprentice of Cao Jingchen's, a famous early 20th century Chinese chef. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets' chef and fled with Chiang Kai-shek's forces to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war. There, he continued his career as official chef until 1973, when he moved to New York to open a restaurant. That was where Peng Jia started inventing new dishes and modifying traditional ones; one new dish, General Tso's chicken, was originally prepared without sugar, and subsequently altered to suit the tastes of "non-Hunanese people. The popularity of the dish has now led to it being "adopted" by local Hunanese chefs and food writers, perhaps as an acknowledgment of the dish's unique status, upon which the international reputation of Hunanese cuisine was largely based. Ironically, when Peng Jia opened a restaurant in Hunan in the 1990s introducing General Tso's chicken, the restaurant closed without success because the locals found the dish too sweet. Well sweet or not, one thing remains true, this awesome song sure is sweet!!!