Along with the wontons, this was my first attempt at getting in touch with the takeout box I so longed for. Fried chicken pieces, sticky sauce. General Tso’s Chicken. Why General Tso’s and not orange chicken, sesame or even sweet and sour? To be honest, I never really liked sweet and sour. There was always something a bit too sweet for me. Orange chicken is good, but there’s something missing, that bit of spicy kick, and sesame? Well, I really love a good sesame chicken, but most of the sauces I found were tomato based, and I just didn’t find that appealing, so I started looking for the General.
I remember searching online for a recipe and, finding nothing that seemed just quite right, I mashed two or three together to set what I thought would mesh well with each other. Over the years we’ve played with the amounts and the ingredients and one time Ole added way too many peppers and tried to mace all of us. The pepper aroma was so thick that my sister and I were coughing up a storm and the heat was very close to being unbearable. We learned then that it’s better to add the peppers later so they don’t simmer in the sauce quite so long and to really pay attention to how many you’re tossing in there. All is well, though, and lessons have been learned. The journey to somehow capture the essence of the white paper takeout carton was successful once again.
Let’s start with the sauce. Mix together a bit of cornstarch and water and minced garlic and fresh ginger.
Add in sugar…
…and some hot water. Stir until all the sugar dissolves.
And place the bowl in the fridge for later.
Start to heat oil in your fryng vessel. Ours is an electric skillet that plugs in. You can also do this in a fryer or just over the stove in a deep pot.
In a completely separate bowl add cornstarch and white pepper…
…and an egg. Mix thoroughly.
Dredge chunks of chicken through the mixture to coat. I find about a 1-1/2″ piece of chicken is the perfect bite-sized portion, and it’s a relatively easy size to cook.
Then fry them in 350° oil until chicken pieces are cooked through. (I was folding cream cheese wontons at this point and missed the photo op. I apologize.)
When the pieces look a lovely shade of brown and are cooked through, drain on paper towels or metal drying racks and set aside, but not too far aside. We’ll need them in just a minute.
In a large wok, heat 2 tablespoons of your oil of choice. I was using peanut oil, but there are lots of oils available. Add in the chopped scallions.
After about a minute, add in sauce. Be sure to mix the sauce before pouring it in. This will free any buried cornstarch that may have settled to the bottom.
Add the hot peppers. I like to add them just as the sauce begins to thicken so they still start cooking down but aren’t overpowering.
The sauce will start to thicken suddenly. Sometimes I find it thickens almost instantly, other times it takes longer. It has to do with temperature of the air around us and the temperature of the sauce going into the wok.
Add the chicken as soon as you see the thickening.
Stir to coat and continue cooking until sauce becomes almost glaze-like but still sauce-like. The bed of rice needs to soak up something, and all the more sauce, the better.
I serve mine over plain steamed rice. Really, that’s all this dish needs, but a cream cheese wonton or two never hurt.
If you’re making this with kids like we do, we just split the first half of the sauce and don’t add peppers before the chicken. Then do the second half with the peppers. It’s as easy as that.