Thursday, 16 November 2006

HONG SHING' General Tao Chicken

"Ah, General Gao, you were a bloodthirsty foe, but your chicken is delectable!"
C. Montgomery Burns

It may not be chicken wings, but this is one of the best substitutes out there: General Tao Chicken.

This sweet and spicy dish goes by many names: General Gau's , General Tsao's, General Zhou's, General Gao's, General Chou's, General Tzo's, General To's, General So's, General Joe's, and General Toso's, General Tso's, and even General George's chicken. Wow, clearly where you are around the world (specifically North America) will depend on how you order this delectable dish.

So what is so big about General Tao?

Wikipedia reports him, Zuo Zongtang, as "a gifted Chinese military leader born in Wenjialong, north of Changsha in Hunan province, during the waning of the Qing Dynasty. He served with brilliant distinction during China's most important (and the world's largest) civil war, the 14-year-long Taiping Rebellion, in which at least 30 million people lost their lives." The dish has questionable origin, some claiming it as a Hunan chicken dish, other claim it was founded in New York City. Either way, Zuo himself never had it. Too bad because its de-lish.

I had never had the General's chicken until I moved to Toronto. All of the small town Chinese restaurants I had ever eaten had all had the same Canadian-style Chinese food. But first year university introduced me to the joys of late late night food - and of my new Chinese adventures came Shanghai Noodles, and General Tao chicken.

Since then I have had the dish a number of times, and like the name, the dish is served differently at each restaurant I've tried it. Some places its dark red, other places orange looking, others yellow-brown. This particular order from Hong Shing was neon red. Sometimes it is accompanied by peppers, spices, onions, broccoli etc. Some sauces are spicier, others sweet. My absolute favourite is from New Ho King in Chinatown because of its spiciness and its wonderfully fried chicken. Hong Shing definitely comes in second with this glowing deep-fried delicacy.

Its crunchy, its sweet, its spicy. What is not to love? Deep fried chicken is always good - but add on a sauce that makes the mouth drool on a late school night - DAMN its good.

A dish of this at Hong Shing is $8.95 and despite how easy a dish it is to make, it is often more expensive than most other dishes of a similar nature. I have to be honest, the dish is pretty much a North American dish (a gwai-lo plate if you will), but honestly, who cares where it comes from. Its just good.

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