The Histories of General Tso's Chicken

Hunan Resources: "But even if General Tso’s chicken is an invented tradition, it has to be seen as a part of the story of Hunanese cuisine. After all, it embodies a narrative of the old Chinese apprentice system and the golden age of Hunanese cookery, the tragedy of civil war and exile, the struggle of the Chinese diaspora to adapt to American society and in the end the opening up of China and the re-establishment of links between Taiwan and the mainland."

Fuchsia Dunlop's NYT essay on the history of General Tso's is super interesting whether or not you like the dish; if reading it gives you deja vu, maybe you read Michael Browning's Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken? in the Washington Post five years ago. Dunlop's piece gives you the impression that Peng Chang-kuei is responsible for General Tso's as we know it, while Browning's piece credits T.T. Wang; both men cooked in New York in the early 1970s.

At any rate, Dunlop's also offers a recipe for a Taiwanese version of General Tso's, "hot and sour and lack[ing] the sweetness of its Americanized counterpart", also available (along with a recipe for American-style sweet General Tso's) in her new book, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province. And hey, if Sichuan cooking is more your style, she's your gal too—Dunlop's previous book is Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.