You can tell just by looking at the recipe page that we've made this more than once.
That night, we actually made two recipes from the same page – the General Tang's, and another chicken recipe called "Portuguese Chicken" or "Chicken with Creamy Curry Sauce." I'll be posting that one at another time. We made two dishes because (if I remember right) we thought the kinds might not like the curried recipe but we knew they'd likt the General Tang's.
This is not the sticky-sweet gloppy mixture you may get at your local take-out place. The sauce is thinner and clear, and the chili peppers are chopped and mixed in rather than left whole and used as a garnish. I realize leaving them whole allows you to add as little or as much heat as you'd like. But since we are fans of the heat, it's nice to have them in the sauce from the beginning, although, since we were making this batch for the kids, we toned it down quite a bit.
But I digress.
I've seen this recipe under different "General" names in various restaurants, such as Tau, Tso, and Gao. Here's what Ken Hom had to say about General Tang…
This dish is said to have been created for a certain General Tang who, besides being noted for his military skills, was also famous as a gourmand. Given the zestful nature of this recipe, I am almost inclined to believe that its name was invented by a modern marketing expert. Nevertheless, the influences of Hunan, a province in southern China well known for its fiery cuisine, are obvious in the hot and spicy flavors of this dish. It certainly has 'tang'. The chicken is coated with a light, airy batter and deep-fried to ensure a crispy texture. Then it is tossed with a clear, chili-laden, piquant sauce with mounds of sliced garlic.
Okay, here's Mr. Hom's recipe.
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
5/8 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
5 dried red chilies, halved, unseeded
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or water
2 tsp white rice vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch blended with 1 tsp water
5 cups peanut oil or vegetable oil (I didn't measure – I just poured a bunch in a deep pot)
Got all that? It's really not as many ingredients as it looks like – a lot of the same things are used in the marinade, batter and sauce.
Bill had made the marinade before I started taking these pictures, so I don't have an exciting action shot of that part. Per Ken Hom, you combine the chicken and the marinade and let them sit for 20 minutes.
"Mix the batter ingredients together in a blender until smooth with no lumps. Put it through a sieve or strainer if necessary."
"For the sauce, heat a saucepan over medium heat until it is hot, then add the oil. When the oil is hot and slightly smoking, add the chilies and garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until the garlic begins to brown. Then add the salt, sugar, stock, and rice vinegar and bring the mixture to a boil. Thicken this with the cornstarch mixture. Turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes."
Yes, now that I read all that, I'm pretty sure Bill had made it earlier. Where the heck was I?
"Heat a wok over high heat until it is hot, then add the oil for deep-frying." (I didn't use the wok – I used the straight-sided pot I usually use when I deep fry.) "When the oil is hot and slightly smoking, remove the chicken from the batter with tongs and deep-fry, in two or three batches, until golden and crispy. Drain well on paper towels and set on a warm platter. Immediately pour the sauce over the chicken and serve at once."
Yum. This is really nice. When you serve this right away, as the recipe suggests, the batter is still crispy in places, but softens wherever the sauce hits it, so you get that soft/crisp contrast. And then there's the sweet/savory contrast as well. Very yummy. In the picture above you can see lots of bits of garlic, and if we'd been making this just for Bill and me, there would have been a lot of cut up chili peppers in the sauce as well. We served it over rice, and there was very little left over.
You might be tempted to use chicken breast meat instead of thigh meat, because it's less fat or whatever, but we prefer using thigh meat in dishes like this because it doesn't dry out like breast meat can. But that's just us.
Give it a try! It's got a lot of ingredients, but it's very simple to make and very tasty!