General Tso's chicken 左宗棠雞 is on the menu of most Chinese restaurants in the USA. General Tso's is quintessentially American; it is not found in restaurants outside of USA (not in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore or anywhere else).
Battered chicken cubes deep fried and bathed in a starchy sweet, salty, sour and sometimes spicy sauce with blanched broccoli side and eaten with steamed white rice.
General Tso, the dish's origin is obscure though most sources place it's birthplace as 1970s New York City where it first appeared in it's present form - not in Hunan (China), General Tso 左宗棠, the man's birthplace.
Tso Tsung Tang 左宗棠, the Ching Dynasty General whom the dish is named after, never tasted or even heard of the dish (as it was invented long after his death in 1885).
General Tso's chicken has such an influence on American food culture that there is even a film attempting to trace the roots of this food icon.
I tried a few General Tso's chicken in Manhattan NYC, and well, here it is.
A - Wah Restaurant
General Tso's Chicken at A - Wah USD5.95 (before tax and tips).
It was a huge plate of steamed rice blanketed with a heap of chicken pieces cooked General Tso style. The white chicken meat was battered and deep fried before tossing in sauce. The batter was uneven - some pieces had thick batter while some thin. The crisp was slight as it was mostly softened by the gooey sauce. The white meat inside was tender but dry and flavourless. The sauce was a blend of mild salty, sweet and tart with very weak, barely perceivable hints of spiciness.
A-Wah is a hole-in-the-wall mon and pop type of eatery. Small and dinghy with few tables inside, it is better known for it's Cantonese style rice cooked in clay pot.
Restaurant name: A - Wah Restaurant
Address: 5 Catherine Street, NYC, New York
Hours: 11:00 am to 9:30 pm
General Tso's Chicken at Congee Village USD10.95 (before tax and tips).
The dish came in a large, heavy porcelain plate (rice not included, which need to be purchased separately). The chicken was all white meat, soft but flavourless and lifeless. The nuggets of chicken relied completely on the seasonings mixed into the batter and starchy sauce for flavour. The batter outside had a very slight crisp but was generally soggy from bathing in the gooey sauce. The sauce was sweet and salty with a bit of spiciness, here and there, from the dried peppercorns thrown into the sauce.
A medium size, well appointed restaurant popular with families and groups. Although named Congee Village, the restaurant also serves a wide range of Cantonese dishes besides very good rice porridge.
Restaurant name: Congee Village
Address: 100 Allen Street, NYC, New York
Hours: 10:30 am – 12:30 am (past midnight)
Hua Ji Pork Chop Fast Food*
General Tso's chicken at Hua Ji USD6 (nett).
Hua Ji's version of General Tso's chicken was likable. The Chef used dark meat with a little fat still on. The batter had a slight crisp, the gravy was balanced though slightly more savoury than sweet. There was a bit of very mild spiciness from the dried peppercorns. The inside was moist and tender.
Tiny hole-in-the-wall shop catering to locals and bus passengers. (Hua Ji is near the bus stops for buses going upstate and to neighbouring states). There are a few seats inside the small shop but no bathroom for customers.
Restaurant name: Hua Ji Pork Chop Fast Food
Address: 7 Allen Street, NYC, New York
Hours: 10:30 am to 9:00 pm
* My favourite of the four GTC that I have tasted so far.
Big Hing Wong Restaurant
I like it that Big Hing Wong uses moist tender dark meat for their General Tso's chicken (USD6.75 before tax and tips). The batter's crispy outside was mostly washed out by the clingy gooey sauce. The sauce was a little too salty and sour for my liking. There were hints of sour plum in the sauce which I am not a fan. Judging from the popularity of salted sour plum tidbits, this rendition of General Tso's chicken would have fans among people who enjoy a blend of salty and sour flavours.
Big Hing Wong is a typical small Chinese eatery in NYC's Chinatown. Bare bones and basic, it's main selling points are competitive pricing and reasonable quality old school Cantonese food. Big Hing Won does enjoy a following of loyal fans.
Restaurant name: Big Hing Wong Restaurant
Address: 300 Grand St., NYC New York ( between Eldridge St. & Allen St. in Lower East Side)
Hours: 11:00am to 10:00pm
There you are - the General Tso's chicken that I have tasted so far ;-D It's a good experience, tasting a piece of American culinary culture. Not quite my cup of tea and it is unlikely that I will order this dish for myself, except to experience this as an American food icon.
Date visited: Dec 2014 to Jan 2015
Return to Johor Kaki homepage.