July 25, 2004

Who was General Tso and why are we eating his chicken.? [Washington Post]
  • ...ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions and hot chili peppers... That's why. Caution: food packed in a cardboard contaioner usually tastes of cardboard.
  • That was an interesting diversion, thanks.
  • Good dish, great story. Thanks!
  • Calls for a round of cock paunch.
  • Hmm, I had no idea that General Gao's (as it seems more commonly called here) was partially defined by dark meat. Many a time have I thought to myself that a serving of it would taste delicious, if it was just in white meat form. Luckily, my favorite Chinese restaurant does use white.
  • Another version of the story has General Tso merely a meat-loving gourmand.
  • Well, everyone seems so eager to claim origin of Tso's chicken. Personally, I really hope it wasn't the defeated enemy immigrants who practiced their sword skills on chickens who invented it...the 1970s Manhattan chef's method sounds more palatable. And the Tso "victory meal" theory is the coolest. The world will never know. (good link, btw, I dig this off-beat stuff)
  • I would like to formally thank all y'all for helping me to decide what to have for dinner.
  • I've never had General Tso's Chicken before. But then again, I've never had Egg Foo Young, or Chop Suey. So there.
  • Never had chop suey or egg foo yung either. Lived on the general's chicken in college though. We used to play Choi Dai Di to decide who was buying...
  • Cool! I know the rules for Cho Dai Di, but I steenk at it. It's a fascinating game. Do you know what the general's chicken is called in Chinese (any dialect)? I might know it by another name. Although it sounds a little like Gongbao Jiding to me, without the cashew nuts.
  • "Calls for a round of cock paunch." Ha! Bees runs rings around us, humorically.
  • Alnedra - wait until you come to the UK. Then you can experience the strange chimera that is take-out Chinese food in the West. Most are vaguely Cantonese dishes, only converted to fast food and toned down for western tastes; the names are heavily Anglicised. There has been some interest in Setzuan (sp?) food, but the standards were established years ago. You'll have to try the curry here too - it's like no where else in the world, but definitely a staple of the local cuisine.
  • Szechuan, jb. And as far as the Chinese name for General Tso's, no clue. Definitely not Gongbao Jiding though. In the US, that's Kung Pao chicken. There was a friend of mine in high school with the last name of Tso, who's dad owned a restaurant. We called it "Jason's dad's chicken" then. He hated that...
  • There is no Chinese name for it, because it's not a Chinese dish. From the article:
    This might conceivably explain why General Tso's Chicken is very much an overseas Chinese dish, filtering the hot, peppery taste of Hunan cuisine, through the sweetening process of Cantonese cooking. Most of the immigrants to America came from coastal regions: Shanghai and Canton. ...General Tso's chicken recipe may be no more ancient than 1972, and may have more in common with Manhattan than with mainland China. On "The Definitive General Tso's Chicken Page" (www.echonyc.com/~erich/tso.htm) New Yorker Eric Hochman theorizes "It was invented in the mid-1970s, in NYC, by one Chef Peng. "Around 1974, Hunan and Szechuan food were introduced to the city, and General Tso's Chicken was an exemplar of the new style. Peng's, on East 44th Street, was the first restaurant in NYC to serve it, and since the dish (and cuisine) were new, Chef Peng was able to make it a House Specialty, in spite of its commonplace ingredients." My own research led me to the same city, but a different Manhattan restaurateur, who claims the dish is the brilliant invention of his former partner, a gifted Chinese immigrant chef named T.T. Wang. "He went into business with me in 1972," said Michael Tong, owner of New York's Shun Lee Palaces, East (155 E. 55th St.) and West (43 W. 65th St.). "We opened the first Hunanese restaurant in the whole country, and the four dishes we offered you will see on the menu of practically every Hunanese restaurant in America today. They all copied from us...
  • The Song of a Roped Chicken My young servant tied up a chicken to sell at market. Roped tight, the chicken struggled and squawked. My family hates seeing the chicken eat worms and ants, not knowing that once sold the chicken will be cooked. What's the difference between chickens and insects to a human being? I scolded the servant and untied the chicken. I can never solve the problems of chickens and insects so just lean against my mountain pavilion, gazing at the cold river. -- Tu Fu/Du Fu
  • Translator of above is unknown.