An Easy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe which is light and healthy. There is no deep-frying but you can still enjoy the classic flavours of this Chinese takeaway favourite.
There’s Chinese food, and there’s American-Chinese food. I wasn’t even aware of the latter until we were posted in Chicago for a few years where lunch with colleagues was often at P.F. Chang’s or Big Bowl, two popular Chinese restaurant chains in the US. There, the menu often featured the likes of Sweet & Sour Chicken, Honey-Glazed Chicken, and Mongolian Beef; Chinese food which is rarely eaten by the Chinese themselves but which are very popular with westerners.
In fact, in some traditional Chinese restaurants, they will often have two entirely different menus – a menu for westerners, and a different menu for those who are suspected to be of Chinese or other Asian origin, i.e. the menu without Sweet & Sour Chicken. I stumbled across this finding when I had recommended a Chinese restaurant in Zurich to an American colleague, a place which was well-known locally for specialising in dishes from the Szechuan region. When I bumped into him the following day, he proclaimed their Sweet & Sour Chicken to be the best he had ever eaten. I wasn’t even aware that they offered this dish on the menu! It transpired that my colleague was never even given the menu with the fiery and tongue-numbing Szechuan specialties; he was simply handed a shorter menu (in English) with his American-Chinese favourites listed inside. With this new knowledge, I began to notice the same amusing trend in other Chinese restaurants.
One particular Chinese dish which doesn’t even originate from China is the vastly popular General Tso’s Chicken. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, this dish was created by a Chinese chef when he was working in New York. And while it is now a dish which many Americans know and love, it is virtually unknown in China. Not that I am an expert on Chinese food, nor an expert Chinese-food eater, but I have never come across this dish outside of the US and Canada.
So upon moving back to Zurich, I was missing my hit of American-Chinese food and set about finding the perfect recipe to recreate General Tso’s Chicken at home.
The recipe below for General Tso’s Chicken comes from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, a rather wonderful collection of authentic Chinese recipes. The recipe is based on the original version which she learnt from the actual creator of the dish, Peng Chang-Kuei. I mention this fact because this recipe tastes somewhat different to the versions you might find at your local Chinese restaurant in America, an indication of how recipes can change and adapt greatly over time.
My experience of General Tso’s Chicken is usually crisp, deep-fried pieces of chicken in a heavy batter, coated in a dark, sweet and sticky sauce which is spiked with hot chillies. This version below has a very light batter, just enough to give the chicken a light coating. And the sauce is absent of any sugar, meaning that it is not sweet at all, but rather savoury and tangy with the requisite amount of heat from the dried chillies. Whilst there is a time and place for the take-away version (I have a weakness for anything deep-fried in batter), one could describe the original recipe for General Tso’s Chicken as a healthier version of what is commonly found in most Chinese restaurants today.
So that the dish can be eaten on its own with some steamed rice, I like to bulk up the dish with some vegetables, usually chopped red or green capsicums, sliced celery or even large diced onions. I know – it’s not very authentic but it saves me from having to make a separate vege dish. Plus, I can then serve everything in one bowl and curl up on the sofa for an evening in front of the telly. Right now, I’m addicted to Damages.Print
General Tso’s Chicken
An Easy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe which is light and healthy. There is no deep-frying but you can still enjoy the classic flavours of this Chinese takeaway favourite. Recipe adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Yield: Serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal 1x
- Category: Lunch, Dinner
- Cuisine: Chinese
For the marinade
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons potato flour
- 2 teaspoons oil
For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon potato flour
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1½ teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons water
For the stir-fry
- 350 g (12 oz) chicken breast or thigh fillets, diced
- 6–10 dried red chillies
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 large red capisicum, diced
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- cooking oil for deep-frying
- spring onions (scallions), sliced
- To make the marinade, mix together the light and dark soy sauces with the egg yolk.
- Add the chicken pieces and mix well.
- Stir through the potato flour and then the oil.
- Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl or jug.
- Heat the cooking oil in a large saucepan until about 180°C (350°F) and deep-fry the chicken in batches until crisp and golden. Set the chicken aside.
- Heat another saucepan with some of the used cooking oil and stir-fry the dried chillies for a few seconds.
- Add the ginger, garlic and capsicum and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
- Add the sauce and stir until it thickens.
- Add the cooked chicken to the sauce and give everything a good mix.
- Stir in the sesame oil and garnish with spring onions.
The heat intensity of dried chillies can vary so go easy with them. If you’re a bit timid, I would start by halving the amount of dried chillies in this recipe.
COOKING FOR CHILDREN
For a kid-friendly meal, my 15 month old child loved the chicken on its own with some rice on the side.
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.
- Serving Size: Serves 2 to 3
- Calories: 475
- Sugar: 6g
- Sodium: 212mg
- Fat: 35.7g
- Carbohydrates: 15.4g
- Fiber: 2.5g
- Protein: 24g
- Cholesterol: 110.4mg
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If you have made this dish, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird