I don’t think it was until I moved to America from London that I realized all my favorite Chinese dishes weren’t actually Chinese but an Anglicized version. And I don’t think it was until I finally visited China that I realized that dishes found in most American Chinese restaurants weren’t authentic either. In fact, they weren’t just inauthentic but didn’t even exist; the best example being the ubiquitous General Tso’s Chicken and fortune cookies which are both entirely absent in China yet found in an estimated 50,000 restaurants across America.
A couple of weeks ago, in the name of “work”, I decided to go to a morning viewing of the new documentary “The Search for General Tso”. It was an absolutely brilliant film which not only solves a mystery but gives a fascinating history of the evolution of Chinese food in America. The film finished at just about lunchtime and it will be no surprise what my gurgling stomach was screaming out for. The exact opposite of subliminal advertising, I had been hypnotized by images of that sticky, sweet dish and nothing else would do!
As usual though, after the initial gratification, came the slightly sick feeling and desperate thirst that comes with takeout. I wanted to see if I could make a version at home that would satisfy my next craving. It was shockingly easy to put together and you can adjust the sweetness and spiciness to your own taste. So just in time for Chinese New Year, here’s my version of General Tso’s Chicken using Brooklyn Wok Shop’s addictive Chili Oil.
General Tso’s Chicken
For the chicken:
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large egg, separated
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1 or 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
Canola, peanut or vegetable oil for frying
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon canola, peanut or vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 strip of orange peel
1 teaspoon Brooklyn Wok Shop’s Chili Oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
A few dried chile de arbol, cut in halves (optional)
Steamed rice, steamed broccoli and thinly sliced scallions
1. In a large bowl, mix sesame oil, soy sauce, egg white, corn starch and 1 tablespoon of orange juice. The consistency should be thicker than pancake batter – add another tablespoon of orange juice if too thick.
2. Add chicken pieces to “batter”, stir and leave to sit for about 20 mins.
3. For the sauce, add the tablespoon of oil to a saucepan on medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir constantly for about 1 minute.
4. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the pan and keep stirring until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken. About 10 minutes. It should coat the back of the spoon. Cover and keep on a low heat to keep warm.
5. Time to fry the chicken! Heat 1/2″ of oil in a large heavy non stick or cast iron frying pan. When the oil is shimmering, begin adding the chicken and make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Turn after 2 or 3 minutes when brown and crispy. Be sure to use a splatter guard and be careful of spitting oil.
6. Transfer the chicken pieces as they are ready to a plate lined with paper towel and continue until you’ve used up all the chicken.
7. Add all the chicken pieces to the sauce and coat to cover before serving with steamed rice, steamed broccoli and cover with sliced scallion. You can spoon more sauce from the pan over the dish as well.