Tuesday, 19 February 2013

General Tao Chicken

What's your favorite Chinese take-out dish?

At our house General Tao's Chicken is loved by all. Now that I've learned how to make saucy crispy chicken (Lemon Chicken) and have the ingredients on hand to spice things up (Pad Thai), I figured it was a good time to go searching for a great General Tao's chicken recipe.

And I didn't just find a great recipe, I found a great recipe on a blog that is coincidentally running a contest that involves cooking the dish and then blogging about it! And here I am with a baby blog that's not even a month old, and itching to cook up some General Tao's Chicken! I love coincidences. And I love free stuff.  But even more importantly I loved the fact that I was participating in a 'Virtual Potluck' in celebration of Chinese New Year and of blogger Diana Kuan's new The Chinese Takeout Cookbook.

Now the contest rules don't say that I need to give the recipe a positive review, just that I need to cook it, take a snap of it, and blog about it. But here's the thing, it was an absolutely awesome dish! The flavors came out perfectly with the just the right balance of sweet and tangy with a mild level of spiciness. The recipe was so clear that my two kitchen helpers were able to measure out and mix all the ingredients without any issues. And the chicken turned out incredibly crispy before saucing it up.

It took us about a hour from start to finish to make the recipe, not rushing, since it was the weekend.  It could have been done in about half the time if I had prepped the marinade, sauce and chicken in advance, which makes it a reasonable meal for a weekday as well. Here's the yummy recipe that we followed with no changes (except that I used a regular stainless steel frying pan rather than a wok).

General Tso’s Chicken (or General Tao's Chicken)
by Appetite for China

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal, 2 to 3 as a main entree
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups peanut or vegetable oil for frying, plus 1 tablespoon for stir-frying
  • 8 dried whole red chilis, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, green parts thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, or substitute water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. Prepare the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, and egg whites. Coat the chicken to the marinade mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, sugar, and the 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set the sauce aside.
  3. In a large bowl or deep plate, toss the 1 1/2 cups cornstarch with the salt and pepper. Coat the marinated chicken in the cornstarch and shake off any excess before frying.
  4. Heat the 3 cups of peanut or vegetable oil in your wok until it registers 350°F on an instant-read oil thermometer. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and fry until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  5. Drain the oil into a heatproof container and save for discarding. Wipe the wok with a paper towel to remove any brown bits, but don’t wash.
  6. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the dried chilis and garlic to the wok and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sauce mixture and stir until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with white sesame seeds and scallions. Serve with white rice and vegetables.

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