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General Tso's chicken

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General Tso's chicken
General Tso's chicken
Alternative names[note 1]
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsChicken, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar,
Shaoxing wine or sherry, sugar, sesame oil, scallions, hot chili peppers, batter
VariationsOrange chicken (Westernized version)
General Tso's chicken
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

General Tso's chicken (左宗棠雞 Zuǒ Zōngtáng jī) is a sweet and spicy deep-fried chicken dish.



The dish was retroactively named after Zuo Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t'ang) (1812–1885), a Qing dynasty statesman and military leader from Hunan Province.[2][3] Chef Eileen Yin-Fei Lo speculated that name "Zongtang" was not a reference to Zuo Zongtang, but rather a reference to the homophone zongtang (宗堂), meaning "the hall of the ancestors".[4] The dish is known by many alternative names, mostly replacing Tso with a different surname.[note 1]

Claims of origin


Two Chinese chefs, Peng Chang-kuei and T.T. Wang, each claimed to have invented General Tso's chicken. The two claims may be somewhat reconciled in that the current General Tso's chicken recipe — where the meat is crispy fried — was introduced by Wang under the name "General Ching's chicken", a name which still has trace appearances on menus on the Internet (the identity of its namesake "General Ching" is, however, unclear); whereas the name "General Tso's chicken" can be traced to Peng, who cooked it in a different way.[6]

Peng's claim


Peng Chang-kuei, a chef from Hunan who was later based in Chongqing and Taipei, rolled out the new dish circa 1973 when he opened the restaurant "Uncle Peng's Hunan Yuan" on East 44th Street, New York City.[3][7][8] Peng claimed his restaurant was the first in New York City to serve Tso's chicken. Since the dish was new, Peng made it the house specialty in spite of the dish's commonplace ingredients.[3] A review of Uncle Peng in 1977 mentioned that their "General Tso's chicken was a stir-fried masterpiece, sizzling hot both in flavor and temperature".[9] When Peng opened a restaurant in Hunan in the 1990s introducing Tso's chicken, the locals found the dish too sweet. His restaurant quickly closed in Hunan.[6][page needed]

There are two stories purporting to explain how Peng Chang-kuei created the dish when he worked in Taipei before he introduced it to New York. Both stories linked to the fact that Peng was well connected to the senior Kuomintang politicians in Hunan, Chongqing and Taiwan.[10][11] The first story was given by Peng himself in 2008 by Jennifer 8. Lee for the documentary The Search for General Tso (2014).[12][13][14] In the documentary, Peng recalled in 1952 he was invited by the Republic of China Navy to be in charge of a three-day state banquet during Admiral Arthur W. Radford's visit of Taiwan.[13][14] Peng claimed Tso's chicken was served on Radford's menu on the third day.[13][14] According to U.S. diplomatic records, Radford's visit was during June 2–6, 1953.[15] The second story was proposed by Taiwanese food writer Zhu Zhenfan in 2009, who said Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of President Chiang Kai-shek, paid a late visit to Peng's restaurant when Peng ran out of ingredients. Chiang was served an improvised dish, General Tso's chicken, by Peng.[16]

Wang claim


New York's Shun Lee Palaces, located at East (155 E. 55th St.) and West (43 W. 65th St.), also claims that it was the first restaurant to serve General Tso's chicken and that it was invented by a Chinese immigrant chef named T. T. Wang in 1972. Michael Tong, owner of New York's Shun Lee Palaces, says "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."[2]



Tso's chicken was spicy rather than sweet and spicy. It was altered to suit the tastes of Americans. The dish drew the attention of many food writers; among them were Fuchsia Dunlop from the United Kingdom and Jennifer 8. Lee from the U.S. The dish was adopted by some Hunan chefs.[3][6][page needed] In Taiwan, it is not served sweet; the chicken is cooked with its skin and soy sauce plays a much more prominent role.[6]


General Tso's chicken
Close-up view of General Tso's chicken

Basic ingredients include:

  • Sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, rice-wine vinegar, sugar,[17] cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic.
  • Batter / breading: egg, cornstarch.
  • Dish: broccoli, chicken dark meat (cubed).

See also



  1. ^ a b Alternative names include: Governor Tso's chicken, General Tao's chicken,[5] General Gao's[Gau's] chicken, General Mao's chicken, General Tsao's chicken, General Tong's chicken, General Tang's chicken, General T's Chicken, General Cho's chicken, General Chow's chicken, General Chai's chicken, General Joe's Chicken, T.S.O. Chicken, General Ching's chicken, General Jong's Chicken, General Sauce Chicken, House Chicken, Admiral Tso's chicken or simply General's Chicken.


  1. ^ 鲍厚星; 崔振华; 沈若云; 伍云姬 (1999). 长沙方言研究. 湖南教育出版社. pp. 69, 82, 89, 62.
  2. ^ a b Browning, Michael (April 17, 2002). "Who Was General Tso And Why Are We Eating His Chicken?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  3. ^ a b c d Dunlop, Fuchsia (February 4, 2007). "Hunan Resources". The New York Times Magazine. Section 6, Page 75. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  4. ^ Lo, Eileen Yin-Fei (1999). "Transplanting Chinese Foods in the West". The Chinese Kitchen. calligraphy by San Yan Wong (1st ed.). New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 416. ISBN 0-688-15826-9.
  5. ^ "Le Grand Poutinefest comes to the West Island May 31 to June 2". 22 May 2019..
  6. ^ a b c d Lee, Jennifer (2008). The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Twelve Books. ISBN 978-0-446-58007-6. - Read online, registration required.
  7. ^ "The Curious History of General Tso's Chicken" Archived 2010-01-09 at the Wayback Machine, Salon
  8. ^ Dunlop (2006).
  9. ^ Sheraton, Mimi (March 18, 1977). "A Touch of Hunan, A Taste of Italy". The New York Times. New Jersey Weekly section, Page 68. Retrieved 2007-04-26.
  10. ^ 林明德 (2016). "彭長貴與彭園湘菜". 料理·台灣. 29 (9). 中華飲食文化基金會. Archived from the original on 2023-03-20.
  11. ^ 陳靜宜 (2009-03-01). "彭園掌門人彭長貴 靈感來了就是菜". 聯合報. Archived from the original on 2009-03-15.
  12. ^ 林少予 (2008-02-27). "老美最熟的老中 左宗棠…雞". 聯合報. Archived from the original on 2023-10-23. Retrieved 2023-11-09.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^ a b c "「尋找左宗棠」李鏡找到彭長貴 解開「左宗雞」身世謎". World Journal. New York City. 2019-07-19.
  14. ^ a b c 姚舜 (2014-05-28). "96歲湘菜祖師爺 明再掌廚左宗棠雞". 中國時報.
  15. ^ Jones, Howard P. (1985). "The Chargé in the Republic of China (Jones) to the Department of State". In Mabon, David W.; Schwar, Harriet D. (eds.). Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, China and Japan, Volume XIV, Part 1 [June 18, 1953]. United States Government Printing Office. p. 206.
  16. ^ 朱振藩 (May 2009). "左宗棠雞人比驕". 歷史月刊: 124. Later compiled in 朱振藩 (December 2009). 食林外史. 麥田出版.
  17. ^ "The Search for General .Tso" (Movie). Ian Cheney. 2014.

Further reading