I love General Tso’s chicken. It’s comfort food. For years it has been my go-to takeout dish. Hot, spicy, crunchy, satisfying perfection – even when the preparation is only mediocre. It simply scratches an itch. Anytime I order takeout I am always torn. I want to try something new, something that maybe – for example – actually originated in China, but inevitably, my order always includes General Tso’s. When I have lived away from the coasts, I was frustrated by what I was served. It was either not spicy enough, not crunchy, or, in at least one case, tasted like fast-food nuggets in canned turkey gravy. I tried a number of takeout joints and eventually gave up. I attempted different recipes and methods at home, but wasn’t ever satisfied. Finally, after considerable reading and experimentation, I got what I wanted – a dish that is fiery, crispy, tangy, and sweet with a batter that holds up and stays crunchy. For me, at least, the secret ingredient was unexpected – yup, ketchup.
General Tso’s ChickenCourse: Main, Dinner, LunchCuisine: Chinese, AmericanDifficulty: Medium
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
1 cup AP Flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp dried red chili flake
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 green onion
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
Dried Chilies (optional)
- Prepare and Marinate the Chicken
- In a non-reactive bowl, mix cornstarch and soy sauce into a smooth batter.
- Cut the chicken into 1-to-2-inch pieces, and add to the batter, tossing and massaging the mixture to coat the chicken completely. Allow the chicken to rest in the marinade at least 20 minutes.
- Bread and Fry Chicken Pieces
- Mix the breading well in a covered container.
- Give the chicken in the marinade a good stir to recoat any pieces.
- Using a single hand (keeping a “wet” and a “dry” hand makes the process much easier and cleaner), drop a few pieces at a time into the breading mixture and cover, shaking vigorously to coat well.
- Remove the pieces with your “dry” hand.
- Set the breaded pieces on a sheet pan with a rack and continue to bread all of the remaining pieces.
- Put the sheet pan in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the breading to hydrate..
- Fry at 375° until browned.
- Remove to drain.
- Immediately before service, fry for a second time at 375° for about 2 minutes to crisp and finish.
- Prepare the Sauce and Finish
- Slice the green onion, separating the white and green portions. Reserve the green portion for garnish.
- Add 1 tsp sesame oil to a shallow pan over medium heat.
- Add garlic, ginger, the white portion of the green onion, and the chili flake to the pan, and sauté for about 2 minutes or until the entire mixture becomes fragrant.
- Add soy, chicken stock, vinegar, and ketchup. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Mix 2 tbsp water and 1 tsp cornstarch. Add to the simmering sauce, and return to a low boil to thicken slightly.
- To finish, fry the chicken for a second time, as outlined above.
- Allow to drain for just a minute.
- Transfer to a large bowl, and toss well with sauce and serve.
- Garnish with chopped green onion tops.
- Dried Chilies – if you like your food spicy, add a small handful of whole red chilies when sauteeing the aromatics for the sauce. They add a lunch of color, and a hit of spiciness that really amps up the flavor of the dish. They’re not for everyone, so I haven’t included it in the base recipe.