General Tso’s Chicken
General Tso’s Chicken first made its way to New York in the early 1970s after Chinese chefs in New York visited Chef Peng’s restaurant in Taipei and adapted the recipe to suit American tastes. Later, Chef Peng himself traveled to New York and opened his first restaurant on 44th Street. His dish attracted the attention of officials at the nearby United Nations Headquarters, including American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger who became a fan and brought the Hunanese dish to public notice.
The name of the dish came from Tso Tsung-t’ang, a formidable Qin Dynasty military general who played an important role in the Taiping Rebellion. It was recorded that Peng named his creation after the Hunanese general to honour his contributions for helping put down a series of rebellions in the 19th century.
Despite its international reputation, the dish is almost unknown in Hunan itself nor does it have any longstanding tradition within the region. But General Tso’s Chicken has since been widely imitated in the United States and has an enormous impact on the cooking of the Chinese diaspora there. Over the years, the dish has become sweeter to acclimate to American taste buds.
A food documentary has been made by director Ian Cheney called The Search for General Tso, which traces the origins of this beloved dish.