( I hope this wishes everyone a happy Chinese New Year )
Following my post for Cantonese Pork and me highlighting authentic Chinese cuisine, I can only follow it by giving my version of a totally bastardised American Chinese dish. A sweet, slightly spicy and I am the first to admit very moreish dish called General Tso’s Chicken. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, a Qing dynasty general, and statesman, however any connection is very tenuous. The origins of the dishes invention are in the 1950’s influx of Chinese to the United States.
The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. Fuchsia Dunlop, in the New York Times, identified the claim of a Taiwan-based chef Peng Chang-kuei. Peng was the Nationalist government banquets’ chef and fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. In 1973 he moved to New York to open a restaurant and experimented and developed Hunanese-style cuisine adopting it for western tastes.
Other chefs claim that they created the dish or variations which include vegetables, meat other than chicken in a sweetened sauce. Later the chicken was deep fried before being added to the sauce, now almost every American Chinese restaurant has General Tso’s Chicken on the menu. Where the dish is cooked outside of the United States the dish is less sweet with more vinegar or rice wine vinegar and soy sauce in the ingredients, this is definitely more to my taste.
General Tso’s Chicken serves 4
As always a general note of caution
BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.
For the Sauce
1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
1 Red Pepper, diced
A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and sliced in 1 inch pieces
1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced
3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped ( approximately 1 tablespoon )
75 ml quality Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 tablespoons soft Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
2 tablespoons Rice Wine
1 heaped tablespoon Corn Flour
A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice
for the fried chicken
2 skinned Chicken Breasts, washed and diced
2 Egg Whites
Juice of 1 Lemon
75 gr Cornflour
Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper
1 ½ liters neutral Vegetable Oil for frying
For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, mushrooms, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes being careful not to burn the garlic and then add the peppers. In a small pan heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.
For the chicken, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper the mix. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the chicken pieces into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In a second wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand then place a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.
Fry the chicken in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon.
When the chicken is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and place into the hot sauce. Simmer for two more minutes and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with a few finely sliced spring onion tops.