Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who was General Tso and why are we eating his chicken?

Apparently I am not the only person to ever ask this question… but for the sake of filling you all in I did a little research, but first the background. So last the other day I went out to eat at a little Chinese restaurant with David. He ordered the General Tso's chicken and noted that at every Chinese restaurant he eats at it always tastes so different. It makes a person think that perhaps this man's recipe is not being prepared properly and some people perhaps are bringing shame to his time honored chicken dish.
I couldn't help but wonder if General Tso is China's equivalent to Kernel Sanders… perhaps they were old war buddies who decided that the chicken business was where they would find their fortune.
That of course is all speculation… here is what wikipedia has to say about it. "General Tso" is actually Zuo Zontang (Spelled Tso Tsung t'ang), a Qing Dynasty general from Hunan. He served during China's most important civil war, the Taiping Rebellion, in which at least 30 million people died. Rumor has it that his wife cooked this delicious chicken dish with a kick for him after a victorious battle, he liked it so much that he would even have it cooked for his commanding officers as a reward. This quite possibly is not true however considering that Zuo probably never tasted the dish and instead some restaurant owner made up this story as a marketing gimmick to sell more chicken. It is said to have originated somewhere in New York City.

The dish is quite inexpensive to produce, however it is often listed on menus as the "Chef's Specialty" and is charged as a higher price than many other items.
Now here is where it gets really tricky…. This dish is even called by different names as over the country:

General Gau's chicken in Massachusetts and New England
General Tao's and General George's chicken in Canada
General Chow's in New Jersey
General Chicken in Northern California
Governor's Chicken in Illinois Admiral Tso's Chicken in the United States Naval Academy mess hall (reflecting a nautical theme)

It is also known or mispronounced as…
General Tsao's
General Zhou's
General Mac's
General Gao's
General Chou's
General Tzo'a
General To's
General So's
General Joe's
Jordan Chicken

In The Simpsons episode "A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love," Montgomery Burns proclaims, "Ah, General Gao, you were a bloodthirsty foe, but your chicken is delectable!"


UrbanPony said...

Did you have any? I don't think I ever heard of that, at least not around here. Hope all is going well with you. Sister Shaw has come home!!! (I'm sure you knew that already!!)

David said...

Oh General Tso, you are an enigma aren't you. Tacy, I think we should do a road trip around Minneapolis Saint Paul (formerly known as The Cities)and try the General Tso chicken at every Chinese place we come across.

Anonymous said...

one of my favorite Mr.Burns quotes! It is delectable , no doubt.