Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking is one of those enormous tomes that's intimidating to even get off the shelf. But each time I get the courage, I'm rewarded with a version of a dish I thought I knew, but realized is way more complex and engaging than I could have imagined. That's definitely true of this version of General Tso's Chicken, that staple of the Chinese buffet. But instead of the spongy pieces of chicken covered in a sticky-sweet glop, this one features crunchy little nuggets coated in a spicy and pungent sauce, full of fragrant ginger and garlic.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Honestly, I was just surprised to find a recipe for General Tso's Chicken in Mastering the Art of Cooking. When I found out it could be pulled together in about 30 minutes, I immediately set out for the store.
What Worked: The sauce is especially good. Though it has a little sweetness, it's perked up with ginger and garlic and laced with heat thanks to the dried red chiles.
What Didn't: This is all on me. The recipe calls for only chicken thighs, but on my first attempt (I made it twice because I liked it so much) I added some breast meat to see how it'd work. It didn't. Stick with the thighs; they stay juicier during the frying process.
Suggested Tweaks: I tossed the pieces of chicken with an additional tablespoon or so of the cornstarch, because the suggested amount didn't completely coat the pieces. I worried about adding more, but since you shake off any excess, it didn't turn out to be a big deal.
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
- Yield:serves 3 to 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch of white pepper
- 5 to 6 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin
- 2 teaspoons white rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 3/4 teaspoon red chili oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 1/2 cups peanut oil
- 8 small dried red chiles, preferably Thai chiles
- 5 scallions, white parts only, sliced 1/2-inch thick
Crack the egg into a medium-sized bowl, and lightly beat it with a fork. Add the salt, white pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the corn starch, and stir until combined. Add the chicken meat, and toss well. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a second bowl, combine the soy sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, Shaoxing wine, red chili oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar. Whisk until smooth.
After the 15 minutes, pour the oil into a large wok set over high heat. Bring the oil up to a temperature of 350°F. While the oil warms up, place a sheet of wax paper on a large sheet pan, and add 3 tablespoons of the cornstarch. Add the pieces of chicken on top, and toss until they are completely coated. Add an additional tablespoon of cornstarch if needed.
When the oil is ready, shake off any excess cornstarch on the chicken, and carefully add them to the wok. Cook, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until browned, two to three minutes. Turn off the heat, and remove chicken pieces with the slotted spoon, and drain on some paper towels.
Remove all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Turn the heat to high, and when the oil is just starting to smoke, add the chiles, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the scallions, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken pieces back to the wok, and toss constantly for a minute until the pieces are coated in the chile and scallion oil. Pour in the sauce, and stir-fry until the pieces are evenly coated, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Serve the chicken immediately with rice.