The Real Story Behind The Origin Of General Tso's Chicken, The Most Beloved Chinese Food Menu Item


General Tso's chicken is one of the most beloved menu items showcased in today's Chinese food restaurants. You know it by its deep fried exterior and combination of spicy, sweet, and sour flavors. General Tso's chicken belongs to the Hunan region cuisine, which is marked by spice, chili peppers, and garlic, but did not actually originate in China.

In the 1970s, a special Taiwanese immigrant in New York developed General Tso's chicken as a new menu item. In the vein of Hunan cuisine, the original General Tso's chicken dishes heavily incorporated chili peppers; over time, these Taiwanese immigrants lightened up on the spice and started deep frying the chicken pieces. As popular as this dish is, few who enjoy it know its true origins.

Was General Tso a Real Person?

The origins of General Tso's chicken is, at first blush, seemingly unknown. Even though it was created on the eastern coast of the United States, this dish does indeed trace its roots to China. The journey is just full of twists.

The Taiwanese immigrants who introduced General Tso's chicken did not name the dish on a whim. General Tso was, believe it or not, an actual military leader. His real name was Tso Tsung-t'ang, and he was born in China's Hunan region in 1812. He thwarted several rebellions and retired as one of the heroes responsible for keeping mainland China independent and free of outside influence.

Hunan Cuisine's Entry Into Taiwan

Soon after the turn of the 20th century, a political party called the Kuomintang, or KMT, emerged. Soon after, the Communist Party of China, or CCP, originated. What resulted was a China divided, with the urban areas leaning toward the KMT and the rural regions leaning toward the CCP. Finally, the CCP pushed the KMT out of mainland China and developed what is now the People's Republic of China.

The KMT political leaders and their families fled to Taiwan, an island with a very shaky relationship with the mainland. Peng Chang-kuei, a highly-esteemed chef from the Hunan region, was one of the people fleeing the communist regime. Peng brought with him his expertise in Hunan cuisine.

The Birth of General Tso's Chicken

In the 1970s, Peng emigrated from Taiwan to New York City. He erected his first Chinese restaurant and introduced his first version of General Tso's chicken, but the palates of North Americans did not immediately take to the dish, or Chinese food in general, for that matter. Over time, Peng altered his dish and, along with other Chinese entrepreneurs in Canada and the United States, opened the western palate to traditionally-inspired foods.

Today, General Tso's chicken frequently tops the list as the most popular Chinese food option. It is also one of the most frequently ordered food items out of any cuisine. Even though General Tso himself never tried this dish, if it was not for his success in keeping mainland China together, perhaps Peng Chang-kuei would have never come to North America. To learn more


16 March 2015

How to Save Money When Eating Out

Welcome to my website. My name is Joanne Taylor. My family and I love eating out at restaurants, but with there being five of us, it can get expensive. In order to be able to continue to indulge in the luxury of eating at restaurants, my husband and I have come up with ways to order and save money. We always thought that ordering kids meals for young children was the cheapest way to go. But we found in many cases, it’s less expensive to order one regular meal and let our two youngest children split it. We make use of coupons whenever possible, restaurant daily specials, early bird specials, and other money savers. I’m going to share some of the ways we’ve been creative in the hope that you will find some useful tips.