Authentic General Tso’s Chicken
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To some diehard Chinese cuisine purists, they may find the recipe title misleading. Sure, the classic General Tso’s Chicken is not an ‘authentic’ Chinese dish, but one that has been honed and perfected in Western kitchens. But who cares? The idea of westernizing dishes for American palates has become so popular that it’s a legitimate form of cuisine. Just look at Tex Mex for example! Therefore, this Authentic General Tso’s Chicken is a dish that successfully recreates the amazing American Chinese takeout classic that is loved by millions and devoured at scale every weekend from those plastic takeout boxes!

As far as Chinese takeout meals go, this is probably my all-time favorite. The bold flavors of sweet, sour, and salty in the rich, sticky sauce is the perfect coating for perfectly fried pieces of Chicken Thigh. Crunchy textures are added to the dish through an assortment of Vegetables and / or Peanuts. Finally, a little bit of heat with some Red Chili completes the massive flavor combination of a great General Tso’s Chicken

How to make an Authentic General Tso’s Chicken

This is such a fun recipe to make at home. To recreate those wonderful flavors that are so synonymous with Chinese takeout is a tasty and rewarding experience. The process does take a little bit of time to perfect, so we do recommend making this recipe when you have a little bit of time. So, a lazy afternoon Saturday cook up would be the perfect time

Homemade and Authentic General Tso's Chicken
Follow this recipe to create your very own homemade Authentic General Tso’s Chicken

The cooking process for General Tso’s Chicken is broken out into three primary components. Frying the Chicken, making the Sweet, Sour, and Salty Sauce. Finally, the stir-frying process to bring everything together

Each step in the process is easy enough, it just requires a little bit of time and some planning ahead. We recommend getting all your ingredients, pots and pans ready to go so the cooking process will be as seamless as possible

Double Fry the Chicken for the crispiest result

If you’re looking to recreate the most Authentic General Tso’s Chicken, then you absolutely must fry the Chicken twice. The double frying method is an incredibly popular technique to yield wonderfully crispy Chicken. It is used a lot in Asian Chicken cooking, particularly in Korean Chicken dishes

The technique is quite simple. Just treat it like you are a regular fried dish. Begin with creating a marinade for the Chicken (like what a typical fried Chicken brine would do). However, instead of bringing the Chicken in a Buttermilk, simply add Corn Starch and a little bit of Mirin for flavor. The Corn Starch’s role is to help thicken the Chicken and provide that first layer or crispiness. Mix everything around and leave it for 20 minutes

Twice Fried Chicken
The twice-fried Chicken will be a beautiful, dark, golden-brown color and completely cooked through

Create a dredge for the Chicken

In a separate bowl, create a flour-based dredge for the Chicken. You can keep this simple with some All-Purpose Flour and seasoning. For this recipe we’re using a combination of Salt, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, and some Cayenne Pepper for a little bit of a kick

Give the Chicken a good coating in the dredge and ensure every piece is covered individually. Before any frying is done, we recommend tapping the Chicken lightly to remove any excess flour. This step will help with keeping the Oil clean as you cook. Too much Flour on the Chicken will mean more in the Oil, resulting in a slight burning / bitter taste to the Chicken

Chicken in dredge with Chopsticks
Using Chopsticks throughout the process will make your life a whole lot easier, we guarantee it!

Authentic General Tso’s Chicken Sauce is a harmonious combination of Sweet, Sour, and Salty

Like all good meals, but particularly those influenced by Chinese cuisine, balance and harmony in a dish is critical. When you think of General Tso’s sauce the first flavor profiles that may come to mind is sweet. Yes, this is a sweet sauce, however how is it that a good bowl of General Tso’s Chicken can be easily devoured without you feeling completely overwhelmed with sweetness?

Well, the reason for that is harmony and balance! To create a dish that is palatable from the first bite all the way through to the last, it requires counteracting flavors to balance out the prominent ones. In this case, the prominent flavor is sweetness

Speaking of Sweetness, we are opting for a combination of two main ingredients that sweeten the sauce. The first being Brown Sugar. The Sugar content of the Sauce is high, as you need enough of it to elevate the sweetness, but also to get that lovely consistency that is expected of a truly authentic General Tso’s Chicken

For our second sweetener, instead of opting for Hoisin Sauce, or Molasses, we are using Ketchup. That’s right! Regular old Tomato Ketchup! The flavor the Ketchup brings to the dish is a bit more mellow than Hoisin, which we find completely overpowers and dominates the flavor of the chicken. It brings a lovely sugary sweetness that pairs well with the remaining ingredients in the sauce

Authentic General Tso's Chicken Flavor
An Authentic General Tso’s Chicken is a perfect flavor harmony of sweet, salty, and sour

Balancing the sweetness with Salt and Acid

To balance out that sweetness, there is a significant level of Saltiness and Sourness added to the Sauce. Salt is added from the inclusion of both Soy Sauce, and Dark Soy Sauce. The Dark Soy Sauce adds an almost molasses like flavor, but it’s prominent flavor profile is still definitely salt

The Sourness, or acidity in the sauce is introduced by Vinegar. We recommend using Chinese Rice Vinegar for the dish. However, Chinese Vinegar / Shaoxing Wine is a suitable alternative. These counter flavors to the aggressive sweetness will produce a wonderfully balanced sauce, perfect for glazing your double-fried Chicken

Chicken Pieces in Corn Starch marinade
Given the Chicken a marinade in Corn Starch and Mirin for 20 minutes before adding to the dredge

The Cornstarch will immediately thicken up the Sauce, so be prepared!

Corn Starch plays a vital role in this dish, as it is the primary thickening agent for the Sauce. You’ll notice the impact the Corn Starch has in the recipe immediately. Once that Sauce hits the hot Wok / Frying Pan the Sauce will immediately start to bubble away and start clinging to the ingredients

Preparation is key, as it can be a shock to see how quickly the Sauce thickens. We recommend having your serving bowls and any toppings ready to go. Once the Sauce goes into the stir fry, immediately add your fried Chicken pieces and stir well to coat. The dish will literally be done at this point, so turn off the heat to avoid the Sauce starting to caramelize and get too sticky. You can always add a little bit of water into the Pan if it has gone too thick, or you need a little bit of time to get everything else ready to go (for instance, if you’re side of Rice isn’t quite done yet)

Authentic General Tso's Chicken Sauce
This sauce in this dish is thick and sticky, perfect for diving into with a big bowl of Rice

A free tip: Use Chopsticks for the Chicken dredging and frying step!

This is a little tip we’ve picked up along the way for cooking with floury dredges such as this one. Instead of using a fork, spoon, or your hands, just use Chopsticks. The flour mixture won’t stick to the Chopsticks making for a much cleaner and easier process of mixing everything together

When it comes to the shallow frying, Chopsticks are also a great tool to use. You can easily add the Chicken pieces into the hot oil (just take your time and do one at a time), and it is even easier to flip them. If you have a spider strainer this will be the ideal tool to remove the cooked chicken pieces from the Oil. If you don’t, Chopsticks are a great alternative

Recipe Details

Servings

4 people

Prep time

25 minutes

Cooking time

25 minutes

Total time

50 minutes

Authentic General Tso’s Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

For the Chicken Marinade and dredge

  • 2 lbs. Chicken Thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tsp. Corn Starch
  • 1 tsp. Mirin
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 cups of Neutral Oil for frying (eg Vegetable / Canola Oil)
  • Salt

Ingredients for the Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp. Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Rice Wine Vinegar (or Shaoxing Wine)
  • 2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Ketchup
  • 1 tsp. Corn Starch
  • 1 tbsp. Water

For the Stir Fry

  • ½ Yellow Onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. Ginger, freshly grated
  • 8 – 10 Dried Red Chilis
  • ½ Bell Pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup of Peanuts
  • 1 tsp. Vegetable Oil

Instructions

  1. Place your Chicken pieces into a large bowl and add 2 tsp. of Corn Starch, 1 tsp. of Mirin, and 2 tsp. of Salt. Mix well to combine and set aside for 20 minutes
  2. While the Chicken is marinating, mix all the Sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside
  3. In a separate bowl combine the All-Purpose Flour, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Cayenne Pepper and 1 tsp. of Salt. Add the Chicken into the flour mixture and coat well

Double frying the Chicken

  1. Add the Oil to a large frying pan and heat until the Oil temperature reached 350F. Dust off any excess Flour from the Chicken and place it into the Oil. Be careful not to overload the pan. We recommend cooking the Chicken in two batched
  2. Shallow fry the Chicken for 4 minutes then flip and fry for a further 3 minutes until light brown. Remove Chicken from the Oil and place on a wire rack. Repeat for second batch of Chicken
  3. Strain out any excess Flour that has pooled in the pan (allow the Oil to cool first), then add Oil back into the Pan. Heat to 350F and repeat the frying process for the Chicken. Fry on each side for about 3 minutes until the Chicken turns crispy and a darkish golden-brown color. Set aside on a wire rack and immediately season the Chicken with Salt

Bringing everything together to make the General Tso’s Chicken

  1. Add the dried Chilis to a large Wok or Pot over high heat to toast. After 1 minute, add the Vegetable Oil, add the Onions, Bell Pepper and Peanuts. Stir Fry for 2 – 3 minutes, then add the Garlic and Ginger. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the Sauce you prepared earlier. Stir through to coat the Vegetables and then add the Chicken. Coat well and then remove from heat. The Sauce will thicken immediately, so this process will not take long. Serve immediately!

Recipe Notes

  • You can top the finished dish with Sesame Seeds and / or sliced Scallions
  • We recommend using Chopsticks to mix the Chicken into the dredge. It will be cleaner and prevent flour from sticking to forks / spoons
  • Serve your General Tso’s Chicken with Noodles or Jasmine Rice

That’s our recipe to recreate the famous Authentic General Tso’s Chicken dish! We hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe as much as we do. If you’ve got a hankering for more Asian-inspired dinners such as this one, why not try some of our other favorite recipes:

Happy Cooking!

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