Happy Birthday to me, indeed! For my birthday last week, after much shameless hinting, I was given a copy of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan!! I was so excited, and knew exactly which recipe I wanted to try first — General Tso Chicken!
I had heard the General Tso story before. Following the Mandarin style foods that were popping up around New York in the 1970’s, an American chef created the smokey sweet General Tso sauce which became a fast hit. So much so, restaurants in China adopted the sauce as their own. Wherever it came from, General Tso chicken is delicious! I had terrible heartburn during my pregnancies and had to lay off even the mildest of spicy foods, but no more!
The preparation is similar to the sweet and sour chicken I did before from the same cookbook: 1 inch cubed chicken is washed in egg white, coated in corn starch and deep fried. For the General Tso, the chicken is marinated in the egg white with soy sauce. and Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry). After the chicken is fried, the prepared sauce is put in the hot pan to thicken up then tossed with the chicken.
For her sauce, Diana Kuan combines: chicken stock, tomato paste, soy sauce, white rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, red chilis and garlic. When all is said and done, this is such a delicious meal! At first bite, the sauce is smoky, almost sweet, then you get the subtlest, tastiest kick from the chili. This is also a sauce which can easily be adjusted sweeter or spicier. Unfortunately, I discovered at the last minute that we were out of corn starch and had to substitute with flour. It still turned out great, but there is a big difference in the crispiness from fried chicken coated in flour vs corn starch.
This meal took a little bit more preparation and ingredients. I felt like I had to clear my schedule for it. But it was well worth it and definitely something we look forward to making again. Next time I make it, it will be much quicker I suspect.
Now that we have the cookbook all to ourselves, we are also excited to pick out new things to try. She has some intriguing noodle dishes I’m pretty curious about 😉