The Story Behind General Tso's Chicken

The Story Behind General Tso's Chicken
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The Story Behind General Tso's Chicken

We can't help but love this tasty dish. While probing around to gather some information on the origins of General Tso's Chicken, we also uncovered a few interesting facts. Continue clicking through our slideshow to check them out!

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While it lacks proof, General Tso's chicken is thought to be named for Zuo Zongtang (also known as General Tso), a 19th-century military leader during the 14-year-long Taiping Rebellion.

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According to, there is no record of any dish named General Tso in classic Hunan texts.

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General Tso's Chicken typically has around 1,300 calories, 11 grams of unsaturated fat, 58 grams of protein, and 3,200 milligrams of sodium.

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General Tso's Chicken made its way to the U.S. in the 1970s. Peng's Restaurant (on East 44th Street in New York City), and New York's Shun Lee Palaces (on 155 E. 55th St. and 43 W. 65th St.) both claim to be the first to serve the dish.

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American Secretary of the State Henry Kissinger was an avid fan of the dish. He returned back to Peng's Restaurant frequently to devour the savory deep-fried treat.

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Traditional ingredients include:

  • Sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG.
  • Batter/breading: egg, cornstarch.
  • Dish: Broccoli, meat (cubed).

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We're not sure about you, but even the mere thought of General Tso's Chicken getting fired up makes us drool a little. The sweet and tangy, slightly spicy, deep-fried Chinese food dish is a favorite of ours, and many others around the world. Tossed in an array of flavors such as ginger and garlic, this is one of the most popular dishes on North American Chinese menus. The ironic part? There seems to be no relationship between this dish and the General it was named after. In fact, when interviewed, it's said that descendants of General Tso have never even heard of the recipe.

So who is he? General Tso, known more formally as Zuo Zongtang, or Tso Tsung-t'ang, was one of China's greatest military leaders. Born in 1812 in Hsiangyin, Hunan, it was certain Zuo would achieve greatness. A man of privilege, born into a wealthy family, Zuo pursued an extensive education, with high aspirations to become a part of the imperial bureaucracy. Unable to pass the highest level exam, known as the chin-shih, Zuo eventually returned home, got married, and began investing himself in a plethora of interests.

In 1850, a civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion (between the Hong Xiuquan and the current governing Qing Dynasty), broke out. Two years later, Zuo received an opportunity that would forever change his life, and place him in the limelight. He was brought on as an advisor by the Hunan government, and given complete control over the province's military. Crushing the war and driving out the Taiping rebels, Zuo proved himself to be a fierce leader. He eventually went on to conquer the heart of the rebellion in Fujiang, dethroning the Taiping teenage monarch.

Zuo continued to climb the ladder, becoming Viceroy and Governor-General of Fujiang and Zhejian provinces, and Commissioner of the Naval Industries. Ultimately, Zuo reached the rank of Grand Council of the Qing Dynasty. His final time was spent overseeing the coastal defense during the Sino-French War. He passed away in 1885, shortly after a truce was reached.

Want to learn a few more fun facts about General Tso's Chicken? Check out our slideshow above!

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