March 6, 2011

General Tso Chicken

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Back in college, my cousin and I would zip across the street to a little hole-in-the-wall Halal Chinese restaurant between classes. This place was good and cheap, the two most important things for any college student. My favorite was the General Tso chicken and would order the same thing each and every single time I went there.

The restaurant has long closed down and I've moved far away, but oh how I have missed those crunchy chunks of chicken coated in that sweet sauce. Since Halal Chinese restaurants are so hard to come by (at least in my neck of the woods) I've had to accept either bottled sauce versions, complete with their deathly amounts of HFCS and sodium, or vegan/vegetarian versions and well, I'll just say that General Tso chicken was meant to be made with chicken.

So I got to work looking up different recipes and reviews. I wasn't happy with a sauce recipe that contained only hoisin and sugar, or soy sauce and honey. I needed some more balance of flavors than that. And the coating of the chicken was probably the most important part of the whole dish; it needs to be crispy  and crunchy, but not in a chicken finger sort of way. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Cooks Illustrated had the answer to my General Tso dreams, and also not surprised that it was a bit of a lengthy process as per the Cooks Illustrated tradition (or so it seems). But don't get intimidated by the list of ingredients and multi-step process, some times it takes a few extra steps to get that authentic flavor you can't find out of a bottle. So in conclusion, this isn't a quick meal to whip-up on a weeknight while the kids are whining for dinner but rather something you can spend some time on for an occasional treat. And you can trust that it'd be worth every minute insha'allah!

Though this recipe doesn't come close to recreating the laughter and good times with my dear cousin, as far as taste goes, it's even better. This one's for you S, I love you, chica!

General Tso Chicken
(taken from Cook's Illustrated)

Ingredients for marinade:
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Ingredients for coating & frying:
3 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups vegetable oil
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced on a bias for garnish


1. Prep the chicken breasts by cutting them into 1 inch pieces.

2. To make the marinade & sauce, whisk the hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a bowl. Of this mixture, place 6 tablespoons into a zip lock storage bag and add the chicken; seal and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Set aside the remaining marinade in the bowl.

3. While the chicken is chilling in the marinade, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Sauté the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add 2 cups of the hoisin marinade to the skillet and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture is dark brown and thickened.Remove the pan from heat, cover to keep the sauce warm.

4. To prepare the chicken coating and frying, whisk the egg whites in a shallow dish until foamy; set aside. Combine the cornstarch, flour, baking soda, and remaining hoisin marinade in a second shallow dish; mix until it resembles coarse meal.

5. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and from the marinade. Pat the marinated chicken dry with paper towels. Toss half the chicken into the foamy egg whites until well coated, then dredge the chicken in the cornstarch mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer the coated chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.

6. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until the oil registers 350 degrees. Fry half the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, turning each piece halfway through cooking.  Transfer the cooked chicken onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken if needed.

7. Warm the sauce over medium heat until simmering. Place the sauce in a large bowl and add the fried chicken pieces. Toss to coat and serve.


  1. Salaam,

    mashaAllah awesome post/recipe :) whenever we eat chinese I only order General tso chicken sizzler. Its sooo good, iA i will try this at home.

    Your pics are mouth watering mashaAllah.


    1. do you know where can we buy this

  2. Oooh sis love love love General T's!!!! :-) I really want to try this soon. Oh and I am a HUGE "Cook's ..." fan as well. I love the science behind the deliciousness!

  3. UmmD: thanks hun! It seems to be a kid-pleaser in this house, let me know how the boys like it on your end!

    UmmA: CI rocks! They really put a lot of effort and research into their recipes, which shows in the end result.

  4. MashaAllah that plate is so... ME! LOL! well done sis ;)

    assalamu alaykum

  5. mouth watering dish! I wanna taste it;)

  6. Email me that plate it looks so good. Especially that orange, could help my throat with some vitamin C right about now lol

  7. Ok I'm late to this but YUMMMMMM

    Does it taste Chinese restaurant level???

    Can't wait!

  8. mmmm... i just made tso chicken and you inspired me to serve it with that beautiful rice. amazing although your recipe does take more effort im sure it tastes amazing as it looks.

  9. Yes Sarah, the Cooks Illustrated recipe is a bit more lengthy than others I've seen also but I do believe it was worth it in the end! Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Well,I think this one is very simple to make. But It didn't taste anything like normal Gen. Tso's chicken. I don't think I will make it again anytime soon.
    Kitchen cabinets

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Are all the brands of hoisin sauce halal?

  14. Seems like a good recepie but are you sure that hoisin sauce is halal?

  15. Anonymous: I'm not sure why hoisin sauce wouldn't be halal as the main ingredients are usually a type of starch, sugar, water, vinegar, garlic and some extra chemicals thrown in for shelf life. But as with anything you use in your kitchen, always check the ingredients label to be safe!


    1. Anas reported that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was asked about the use of Khamr from which vinegar is prepared. He said:

      No (it is prohibited).

      Narrated Anas bin Malik (rad):

      Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was asked about making vinegar out of wine. He said, “No (it is prohibited)”. [Reported by Muslim, and At-Tirmidhi and the latter graded it Hasan-Sahih (fair and sound)].

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  39. Assalamu'alaikum sister! I was googling hoisin sauce to confirm whether it was halal or not, and this blog post appeared as the first search result. Subhan'Allah!

  40. does anyone where can we buy this in quebec


Tell me what you think! As always, feedback and reviews are appreciated...happy cooking!