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General Tso’s Chicken

As with many Chinese-American recipes, there is conflicting mythology as to the origins of General Tso’s chicken. But it’s a mainstay of Chinese restaurant fare in the United States. It’s got a good spicy kick to it, mainly coming from red pepper flakes (which makes it easy to control the level of heat), accentuated with plenty of garlic and ginger.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Thai chili paste
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Stir fry:

  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut int 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Mix together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste and sesame oil in a small bowl. Scoop 2 tbsp. of the mix into a large bowl and add the cut chicken. Stir to thoroughly coat all of the chicken, then allow the chicken to marinate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the rest of the ingredients to the sauce: sugar, corn starch, and chicken broth. Stir until the corn starch is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Cook the chicken according to your preferences: stir fry, deep fry, air fry, bake, etc. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tbsp. of cooking oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant (don’t let it get past lightly-browned). This is called “blooming” the spices; it accentuates their flavor. But garlic burns very easily, so don’t take your eyes off it until you can cool it off by adding the rest of the sauce ingredients.

Add the sauce mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until it thickens.

Add the chicken, and toss until fully coated with sauce. Simmer until the chicken is fully reheated. Season to taste.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Tips and suggestions:

  • You can very the spiciness by adding or removing red pepper flakes. Until you’ve made the recipe several times and know the right amount that works for you, it’s best to aim low and incrementally add spice later, because it easy to make a dish more spicy but it’s difficult to make it less spicy.
  • You can substitute other types of protein. Even beef: this is a strong-flavored sauce that will hold its own well against beef (with lighter-flavored proteins such as chicken or tofu, this dish is much more about the sauce than about the protein)
  • You can finish it with sesame seeds and/or green onion slices.
  • This is a great dish to serve on a bed of rice; the leftover sauce is too good not to eat, but probably too spicy to eat without something blander to soak it up.

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