General Tso’s Chicken

When you have a craving for New York style Chinese food, this happens. General Tso’s Chicken. Since we’ve moved to the West coast Chinese takeout has not been the same. Portland has an abundance of asian food -Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, but is remarkably lacking in Chinese takeout. And there are definite differences between East coast and West coast Chinese food. Like where is the Lo Mein? That’s a NY thing. And why do I have to order rice, it really doesn’t come with the dish? And where are the dried noodles with duck sauce? Where is the duck sauce? And then there’s the sticker shock too, $18 for General Tso’s Chicken? It’s like $6 in NY. With rice! So here we are with homemade Chinese food. The ingredient list looks a bit overwhelming but many items are just repeats of the same for each sauce or marinade. Chinese wine, Shaoxing wine, was nowhere to be found so we replaced it with dry sherry as the recipe suggested. 

The dreaded deep frying went relatively well without smoke alarms going off, but I’m still uncomfortable with deep frying. So results? It’s delicious. However it’s not the General Tso’s Chicken we were expecting. If I were to make this again I would use a Tempura batter for the chicken. But I’m glad we made it and it was a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

General Tso’s Chicken

For the Marinade

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons 80-proof vodka
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breast), cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks

For the Dry Coating

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about one 1-inch piece)
  • 2 teaspoons minced scallion bottoms (about 1 scallion), plus 6 to 8 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 8 small dried red chilies 

To Finish

  • 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil for deep frying
  • 2 cups steamed broccoli florets
  • Steamed white rice for serving

For the Marinade: Beat egg whites in a large bowl until broken down and lightly foamy. Add soy sauce, wine, and vodka and whisk to combine. Set aside half of marinade in a small bowl. Add baking soda and corn starch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken to large bowl and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside (we put it in the refrigerator until we were ready to cook it).

For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk until combined. Add reserved marinade and whisk until mixture has coarse, mealy clumps. Set aside.

For the Sauce: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.

Combine oil, garlic, ginger, minced scallions, and red chilies in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic and soft, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet, making sure to scrape out and sugar or starch that has sunk to the bottom. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add scallion segments. Transfer sauce to a bowl to stop cooking, but don't wipe out skillet.

To Finish: Heat 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F and adjust flame to maintain temperature.

Working one piece at a time, transfer chicken from marinade to dry coat mixture, tossing in between each addition to coat chicken. When all chicken is added to dry coat, toss with hands, pressing dry mixture onto chicken so it adheres, and making sure that every piece is coated thoroughly.

Lift chicken one piece at a time, shake off excess coating, and carefully lower into hot oil (do not drop it). Once all chicken is added, cook, agitating with long chopsticks or a metal spider, and adjusting flame to maintain a temperature of 325 to 375°F, until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.

Add chicken and steamed broccoli to empty skillet and return sauce to skillet. Toss with a rubber spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Garnish with a few scallions. Serve immediately with white rice.

Adapted from Serious Eats