Over the past few years, I’ve cooked a fair amount of Chinese food, focusing mainly on my favorite dim sum dishes (yum bean curd rolls!). But beyond the basic stirfries and fried rice, I haven’t attempted much from the more Americanized style, like General Tso’s chicken for instance. But last week, feeling frisky, I decided to expand my repertoire and I had the perfect recipe to try out: this one created by Grace Parisi.
While General Tso’s Chicken may have a slightly murky history, the reason it’s remained so popular is easy to understand. It’s spicy, sweet, salty and fried — basically the epitome of great take-out Chinese food. And it appeals to the masses, from hungover college students to stay-at-home moms. With all of those different elements, it seemed like the perfect thing to try making at home.
And to be honest this review of the recipe really encouraged me to go for it — such an awesome experiment!
Anyways, Parisi’s recipe manages to combine all of the expected goodness of General Tso’s in a slightly less fatty (and certainly less processed!) way. I was a bit hesitant about the frying part since normally I try to eat a little healthier, but I felt it was only fair to try the recipe as written. Well…for the most part anyways — I did sub out the chicken thighs for boneless breasts only because I had them on hand.
On the subject of frying, the first thing that stood out about this recipe was the batter for the chicken. I loved that it wasn’t a basic tempura-style of batter; instead it has components added in — soy, sesame oil — giving the final dish another layer of flavor. The breading is also incredibly light. It ends up barely clinging to the meat (in a good way!), making the chicken seem merely very crispy instead of greasy and deep fried.
I also really enjoyed the sauce, though I felt it was missing something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it — it was sweet, it had spice, it had salt, but I still felt it wasn’t quite there yet. I added a hefty squeeze of lime and that seemed to make everything better. Besides that, and the fact that I literally felt like I dirtied every dish in my kitchen to make it, this dinner was a winner.
In fact, I enjoyed both elements of the dish separately just as much as I did as part of the whole. I think I might try making another take-out favorite of mine (sweet and sour!) using the batter recipe. I also can see myself using the sauce over sautéed chicken for an even lighter version of this dish. So many delicious options and you can bet I’ll be trying them all!