Learn about the history of General Tso’s Chicken, including the origin of the name. Who was the creator of General Tso’s chicken dish, and how did it become popular in the United States?
One of my most popular Chinese recipes is General Tso’s Chicken. I’m frequently contacted by people curious about the dish’s history and where it came from.
What I discovered after doing an extensive investigation on the Chinese search engine Baidu and its encyclopedia Baike is the following:
WHO IS GENERAL TSO?
- According to Chinese history, Commander Tso was a Chinese general who served from 1812 to 1885. In Chinese, he was known as Zuo Zongtang. Eventually, it became known as General Tso.
WHO INVENTED GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN?
- Despite popular perception, General Tso’s Chicken is not a Chinese dish. A Hunan chef named Peng Chang Gui came up with the idea in 1952. (Peng Chang Kuei).
Leaders of the defeated Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war. Chef Peng was one of the prominent chefs they brought along.
Taiwanese chef Peng was assigned to prepare a supper feast for a US Navy Seal who visited Taiwan. After cooking Chinese delicacies for the US Navy Seals for three nights, Chef Peng decided to develop a new meal for his American guests.
After being deboned and sliced into pieces, he used soy sauce and cornstarch to marinate a chicken leg. It was then deep-fried to a golden brown color. Dried chilis and vinegar were among the ingredients he used to make the sauce.
Chef Pang was asked the name of the chicken meal by the American guests, who were enamored with the flavor. He named it “Zuo Zongtang Ji” (), which translates to “General Tso’s chicken,” because he was born in Hunan, the home of General Tso. When it comes to Chinese cuisine, these were the first steps in the process.
When Chef Peng arrived in the United States in 1973, he decided to create his own restaurant, which he did. He thickened the sauce with sugar to appeal to American palates. As word spread about how good this meal was, more and more Chinese restaurants began offering it as an option on their menus.
One of America’s best-known Chinese dishes is General Tso’s Chicken, popularized by American-Chinese cuisine over the years.