Everybody's all time favorite Chinese-American take out dish: General Tso's Chicken. All best flavors loaded in one dish: sticky, sweet and sour with a hint of spicy. Better yet, it made of a vegan sauce with a secret ingredient in replacement of the typical rice vinegar.
Since my moving, it was really hard for me to find a decent General Tso's chicken dish around here. Because to the people living outside the States and never experiencing the traditional Chinese-American take out, this dish does not even exist. So here I am making my own version of the famous take out dish.
Speaking of take out, I had living most of my entire 20's life eating delicious and addicted Chinese-American cuisine. Together with salt and pepper chicken, these two manage their ways to be on top of my favorite to-go food of all time. Living far and away from all familiar things I had in the past is quite hard. Sometimes I just want a decent Chinese take-out, but I couldn't. Lucky me, I love cooking and exploring with recipe here and there; so you don't have to. If you're in a situation like me, dig in and enjoy yourself a good old time General Tso dish.
What is General Tso's Chicken?
The dish is named after a Qing dynasty's military leader Zuo Zongtang. It is made of deep fried battered chicken coated in sweet, sour, and spicy sauce. Typically, General Tso's sauce uses rice vinegar as a typical ingredient to add on the sourness for the sauce. However, I found another ingredients to replace the so called rice vinegar which probably not so many people could get a hand on.
So next time you don't need to Google your nearest General Tso's chicken delivery shop, instead make yourself a jar loaded with homemade goodness.
Ingredients and a secret one used to make this vegan sauce
The wonderful thing about this recipe is the sauce is completely vegan. That said, if you're looking for a resemble dish but vegan instead, this sauce is pretty handy.
- Light soy sauce - the main ingredient for General Tso's sauce. Make sure you get the light one, and not the dark or heavy soy sauce.
- Hoisin sauce - just a touch of hoisin in the recipe can make the flavor become more umami. But don't overuse it if you don't want your vegan General Tso sauce tastes exactly like sweet hoisin.
- No rice vinegar - most of General Tso sauce recipes out there call for this particular ingredient. Don't get me wrong, it's unique and it's delicious. But rice vinegar is quite hard to find for some people and not to mention it's hard to control due to its sharp sourness.
- Pineapple juice - the secret ingredient I was talking about. Pineapple juice has the flavor that's a General Tso sauce needed and it's easier to control with if you've ever done overboard with measurement.
- Garlic & ginger - the stars of the sauce where most the flavor comes from. Cook them in the sauce and let them steep in the flavor for an hour to have such perfect General Tso sauce.
- Beer batter - or regular batter if you don't have beer available. You can replace beer with cold water or club soda. You can fine the beer batter recipe in this crispy and amazing shrimp popcorn post. It works perfectly for almost everything: chicken, shrimp, vegetables, you name it.
- Corn starch or potato starch slurry - I use potato starch to thicken and add shine to the sauce. But you can always replace it with corn starch. Just remember a rule of thumb: 1 tbsp corn starch equals 4 tsp potato starch.
Alternative ways to use of General Tso sauce
This General Tso sauce can be used in many ways, 1 sauce to make 3 different famous Chinese take out:
- Add couple of dry chilies or fresh chilies and stir fry together with the sauce, you have General Tso's chicken.
- If you're not a big fan of spice, then cook the sauce as it is with your chicken, then topped with toasted sesame seeds. And that is how Sesame chicken is made.
- Another use of this amazing sauce is add dried orange peel and stir fry with chicken, then you have tasty Orange chicken dish ready.
If you're looking for such a vegan style dish, you're in luck. Just replace the chicken with your favorite vegan ingredient such as: fried tofu, broccoli ... than you have such tasty and flavorful vegan dish. General Tso's tofu was such a famous request back in the day when I was working at one of the most famous Chinese restaurants in Austin. And I bet it still is now.
Can I make this ahead of time?
Definitely. In fact, this is what every single restaurant do so they can get their order fast and served on time. All you need to do is to batter then fry the chicken. Then portion them and put them in the freezer (for up to a week) or in the fridge (for up to 2 days). Just make sure when you thaw frozen pre-fried chicken, you leave them in the fridge not at room temperature before using.
General Tso's Chicken with Vegan Sauce
Chicken and marinade mixture
- 2 lb chicken thighs boneless, skin on, cut into bite size
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 dash black pepper
- 2 tbsp AP flour
- 2 c AP flour
- ½ c corn starch
- 1.5 c cold water/beer/club soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 dash salt
General Tso Sauce
- 4 oz light soy sauce
- 1 oz hoisin sauce
- 3 oz sugar
- 6 oz pineapple juice
- 4 oz water
- 7 medium piece of ginger smashed
- 7 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 tbsp potato starch
- ¼ c water
- broccoli boiled, as needed
- steamed rice as needed
- dry chilies or whole fresh chilies as needed
- vegetable oil for frying, as needed
- In a mixing bowl, combine chicken and marinade mixture and let them marinade for 30 minutes.
- In your largest mixing bowl, combine all batter ingredients whisk to incorporate everything well. Set aside, let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes.
General Tso sauce
- In a double bottom sauce pan, combine all ingredients on medium high heat. Bring to boiling point then reduce the heat immediately to medium-low setting, simmer the mixture for 10 minutes. Let ginger and garlic steep in the mixture for an hour. Then strain the liquid and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in a fridge.
- Before turn off the heat, at the slurry in and give the mixture a few stirs. The sauce should coat the back of your spoon perfectly. Let ginger and garlic steep in the mixture for an hour. Then strain the liquid and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in a fridge.
- If the sauce becomes too thick after refrigerating or at any point, add 1 to 2 tbsp of water or pineapple juice to thin it out.
- In a shallow frying pan, add enough oil and bring it to 350F - 375F. Carefully dip marinated chicken in the batter then deep fry. Work in small batch, 7-10 pieces of chicken at a time. Fry approximately 5-8 minutes for each batch.
- Proceed until all pieces of chicken are done with frying.
Cooking General Tso's chicken
- In a double bottom sauteed pan on medium high heat, add about 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, then add 10-15 pieces of batter fried chicken and few chilies. Give the pan a few shake. Add enough General Tso sauce to coat all chicken pieces evenly. Turn off the heat.
- Serve General Tso's chicken immediately with boiled broccoli and steamed rice. Enjoy!