General Tso’s Chicken

I’ve long been a proponent of the “If you’re going to eat it, make it yourself” school of thought.  Want cake?  Bake one – from scratch.  Want ice cream?  Make it yourself – again, from scratch.  Want biscuits and gravy?  Ditto.

Want some wonderfully sauced, deep-fried Chinese food?  I can do that.

Despite the fact that I love it, I’ve never been real huge on Chinese take-out.  Oh, we’d get it once in a blue moon, but it wasn’t something we’d get on a weekly, or even monthly, basis.  But when we did, you can be sure General Tso’s Chicken was one of the dishes we’d order.  It’s probably Beloved’s favorite, right behind crab rangoons and barbecue spare ribs.  I won’t turn my nose up at it, either, although The Young One usually did, opting for chicken fried rice.

I can’t remember the last time we ordered it, though – certainly not in the last two years, and it was probably quite some time before that.  But once in awhile, it just sounds good, so I thought I’d look around on the interwebz for a reasonable recipe.  And boy, did I find one.

The original recipe calls for corn starch, sugar, hoisin sauce and vegetable oil, but we all know I’m not going there, so I made suitable substitutions of a little extra wheat-free tamari, some honey, tapioca flour (potato starch would probably also work quite well, if you’re so inclined) and non-hydrogenated vegetable palm oil shortening, simply because it has such a neutral flavor.  The results were better than I hoped for – the chicken was suitably moist, yet crunchy, and the sauce was spicy but not too sweet.  The three of us – yes, even The Young One, who went back for more (something that is almost unheard of) – scarfed it down with great pleasure.

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients; it really came together pretty quickly – frying the chicken was the hardest, most time-consuming part, and even that took maybe 10 minutes, tops.  I also added some sliced carrots, onion and tatsoi we’d picked up at the farmer’s market, stir-frying them briefly before adding the garlic and red pepper flakes to the wok – you could use just about any vegetables you like.  Or none at all, if that’s what you want.  (Michele, I totally see this working with some tofu.)

All in all, this was really very good – I can easily see making this again sometime.  Or maybe turning the recipe into Orange Chicken.  Or Sesame Chicken.  Mmmmm…

General Tso's Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken
Serves: 4
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – 3 cups palm oil shortening
  • Marinade
  • 1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 egg whites
  • Sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca flour or arrowroot powder
  1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken, and stir to coat; set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour with the salt and pepper. Toss the marinated chicken in the tapioca mixture to coat; shake off any excess before frying.
  4. In a wok or large, deep skillet, melt the palm oil shortening over high heat to 350 F. Working in batches, fry the chicken cubs until golden brown outside and just cooked through inside, about 4 minutes per batch. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all of the chicken has been fried.
  5. Drain the hot oil into a heat-proof container, reserving one tablespoon; discard the rest once it has cooled. Wipe down the inside of the wok with a paper towel, but do not wash.
  6. Reheat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat; add the reserved tablespoon of oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture in the wok and stir to coat well. Transfer to a serving dish; garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scalliions, if desired. Serve with the vegetables of your choice.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 504 calories, 31.4g total fat, 73mg cholesterol, 1052.6mg sodium, 601.1mg potassium, 28.3g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 10g sugar, 27.9g protein


Kung Pao Chicken

My Facebook status last night read, “Is in the ‘recipe development’ zone.”  And indeed I was.  Unfortunately, neither of the recipes I’m developing have been actually, well, cooked.  Not to worry, they’re on the menu tonight, and you’ll get one of them tomorrow.  In the meantime, I was kind of bonking around in recipes I have actually cooked and found this one – and a very good one it is.

I don’t remember where I found the original recipe, which (as far as I can tell) was a fairly authentic version of Kung Pao Chicken.  The original recipe made use of cornstarch, soy sauce and vegetable oil and served over rice, so basically I tweaked it to eliminate those things I no longer eat, or eat very rarely – more or less a paleo version.  It’s also been quite awhile since I’ve made it, and looking over the recipe and photo I’m really wondering why because it’s delicious and fairly easy to make, despite the intimidating list of ingredients.

It’s interesting to note that for nearly 40 years, it was illegal to import Szechuan peppercorns to the U.S. because they were thought to carry citrus canker, a tree disease that can potentially harm citrus crops.  However, the ban was lifted in 2005 when new processing methods helped eliminate the threat and they are now available in this country.  Having said that, I’ve never seen them in any store, not even our tiny local Asian market, so while they are included in this recipe, their use it optional.  If you insist on authenticity, you can purchase Szechuan peppercorns online; of course, if you insist on authenticity it’s unlikely you’ll be making this version any time soon. 😛

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 4 to 6 ounces each

2 teaspoons tamari or wheat-free soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons tamari or wheat-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon raw honey

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 green onions, whites and tops, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, optional
1/2 cup cashews
a few drops sesame oil, optional

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Combine with the marinade ingredients, adding the arrowroot last. Marinate the chicken for 25 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the vegetables and sauce: In a small bowl, combine the dark soy sauce, rice wine, and honey. Set aside.

Heat the wok over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir-fry until it turns white but still slightly pink in the center. Remove from the wok.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry until aromatic (about 30 seconds). Add the vegetables, red pepper flakes and the Szechuan peppercorns if using. Stir-fry briskly until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.

Add the sauce to the wok. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken back into the pan. Stir in the cashews and the green onion, and continue stir-frying until the chicken is completely cooked through, another 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve hot.

Nutrition (per serving): 459 calories, 24.2g total fat, 113.3mg cholesterol, 927.5mg sodium, 1069.6mg potassium, 17g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 5.9g sugar, 42.6g protein.

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Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday