oThe Search for General Tso’s Halibut Cheeks

General Tso’s chicken did not preexist in Hunanese cuisine,but originally the flavors of the dish were typically Hunanese — heavy, sour, hot and salty.

– Chef Peng Chang-kuei

General Tso’s chicken started as a dish inspired by classic Hunanese ingredients and a love for the province. Chef Peng Chang-Kuei escaped oppression in his native China in 1949 and ended up living in New York City where he created General Tso’s chicken in 1973. To appeal to Americans he blasphemed the dish and added extra sugar. The dish became so popular it spread across the country and eventually back to China.

My wife Lisa and I just finished watching the fascinating documentary “In Search of General Tso’s Chicken”. I found it so interesting not so much for the study into the origins of one of America’s most iconic ‘Chinese’ dishes, but because it confirmed my long-held belief of why American Chinese food is so damned sweet. Chinese immigrants realized we Americans have a cultural sweet tooth and add copious quantities of sugar to our food to make it loved.

The issue and reasonings are far more in-depth and complex, but will also shed a lot of light on the story of Chinese immigration in America. The persecution Chinese immigrants were subjected to relates a recurring storyline in America that has happened with many different ethnic groups. In some ways, it could be the story of Muslims today. I really do not want to spoil the movie. Cook this take on the classic and watch the movie!

The side effect of watching was I went on an all-out Chinese food marathon shortly after. One dish I ‘created’ was a take on General Tso’s chicken. Perhaps Chef Peng Chang-Kuei, the man credited with creating General Tso’s Chicken, would be rolling in his grave if he knew of my spin on his classic Hunanese dish. I couldn’t help it, all the ingredients were just sitting around at my house waiting to be part of something epic.

If you make this recipe and think damn, I would love an absolutely FREE hard-back cookbook from this guy than click here to get one.

General Tso’s Halibut Cheeks

A quick and easy version of the classic General Tso’s Chicken

Ingredients

General Tso’s Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves mashed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine or Sake or Sherry
  • 2 teaspoon corn or potato starch

Marinade and Halibut

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine Sake or sherry
  • 1 egg white beaten
  • 2 tablespoons corn or potato starch
  • 1 pound halibut cheeks or halibut cut into 1 ounce pieces

to finish dish

  • vegetable oil heated to 350 degrees for frying
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 10 dried red chilies
  • 2 cups flowering purple broccoli or steamed green broccoli
  • 1/4 cup wild spring onions or scallions, chopped

Instructions

General Tso’s Sauce

  1. Heat sesame oil in a large pan till hot.
  2. Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, or until very fragrant.
  3. Add sugar, tomato paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and wine and bring to a boil.
  4. Mix corn starch with 2 tablespoons of water and whisk into sauce.
  5. Turn sauce off and get the rest of the dish ready.

Marinade and Halibut

  1. Mix soy, wine, egg white, and corn starch together.
  2. Marinate halibut cheeks for a few moments.

Finish the Dish

  1. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a large heavy bottom pan.
  2. Drop halibut cheeks into the hot oil one by one and cook till brown and crispy, about five minutes. When they are done drain onto paper towels.
  3. Heat remaining vegetable oil in a saute pan large enough to hold everything.
  4. Add dried red chilies and toss quickly.
  5. Add halibut cheeks and sauce and toss till everything is coated well.
  6. Plate on a serving platter and surround with steamed broccoli.
  7. Scatter chopped wild spring onions or scallions over.

Written by

My earliest attempt at cookery began with the filleting of my sister's goldfish at age 2 and cooking my pet rabbits by age 7. Life has been downhill ever since.

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