JANUARY CHEF’S CORNER with John Rudy: General Tso’s Chicken

GENERAL  TSO’S   CHICKEN

from Chef John Rudy

In 1998 we went to China, and I noticed that General Tso’s Chicken was never on the menu.  I asked and was told that they never heard of it, and anyway, who was General Tso?  Since then, I have done some research, and it seems that it was named after Tso Tsung-t’ang (1812–1885), a Qing Dynasty military leader who suppressed the 1862–1877 Dungan Revolt.  Now you can impress your friends.

This recipe came off the net many years ago, though I have fiddled with it.  It tastes exactly like the best version I’ve ever had out.  Remember that the Cayenne pepper powder can be very hot.  Presumably dried peppers can also be used, but I couldn’t find them.  Make sure that you use Asian sticky rice, and not something like Uncle Ben’s.  If you haven’t used Sticky Rice, be careful with the amount of water.  It usually takes about 50% more than what the bag says, so check it periodically as it cooks the 20 minutesm to make sure that it doesn’t burn.

This recipe is for a small amount of chicken.  White meat dries out, so always make it with boneless, skinless thighs.  That also makes it possible to reheat it without turning it into cardboard.

  • 1 lb  Chicken (best with dark meat)
  • 3 tbs cornstarch (for coating)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbs cornstarch (to thicken)
  •  1/4 cup soy sauce
  •  3 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin and in half
  • spicy red pepper, as desired
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs water, cold (for cornstarch)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juide
  • 1 clove garlic (sliced thin)
  • peanut oil (about 3/4 cup, add more as needed)
  • broccoli
  • sticky rice
  • Note:  If tripling the recipe (to serve 6-8) you need only double the egg/cornstarch mixture, but triple the sauce.
  1. Depending on where you buy the thighs, there might be some tough strands attached that you have to remove with a sharp knife. Cut the chicken into chunks.  One thigh might be 4 pieces, but it depends on the size of the thigh.
  2. Mix cornstarch and egg and coat the chicken. Once mixed, it will separate after about 5 minutes, so you might have to re-stir it.
  3. Heat oil very hot in a wok, electric fry pan, or regular fry pan and fry chicken. This will take about 5 minutes and chicken should be turned.  If there is a lot of chicken, do it by turns.  The pieces of chicken should not be touching, or they will attach to one another.  Don’t overcook the chicken.
  4. Remove chicken to a side tray, keeping it warm in the oven at 200° which will not continue to cook it.
  5. Remove all but a few Tbs. of the oil and cook the onion, covered, along with the pepper. You may need to add some water to keep it from burning.  I like the onions to be soft but not mushy, and certainly not blackened.  The best way to slice an onion is to cut it in half, from north to south pole, and then using a very sharp knife, make the slices.
  6. Mix the juice, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger and add to the onion mixture. Cook until it boils and the sugar is dissolved.  This takes 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add the cornstarch/water mixture to thicken the sauce, and add the chicken, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.  Reduce the cornstarch if you want a thinner sauce.
  8. Serve over sticky rice (about ¾ cup per person) with steamed broccoli on the side.
  9. Though I have never seen it in a restaurant, I like to cut celery stalks ½“ thick and cook in butter about 5 minutes (in a separate pan) and add them in.
BOLLI Chef John Rudy

THE CHEF’S CORNER:  John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked exclusively vegetables in boilable packages.)

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402(