Put down that take-out menu and step away – you don’t need it. Nor do you want it, because you want this General Tso’s chicken instead. Well, perhaps you do, perhaps you’re reading this after a long day of work and just want to order your favourite take-out order (mine’s roasted red duck curry which = awesome) rather than even so much as contemplate stepping into your kitchen, let alone cook in it.
But, for just a second, hear me out. Not only are we recreating a classic take-out dish (of the Chinese-American flavour) but we’re going to a) tweak it a little and give it a Japanese-esque awesomeness about it, but b) we are going to make it so darn better than any take out joint.
That take-out men still looking good? (of course it does, you’ve just finished work and there is Netflix to catch up on, I get it, but be sure to save this recipe for when time and enthusiasm are not an issue because you are going to want to make this!).
Would you believe that, until a few months ago, I had never heard of General Tso’s chicken – says the guy who likes to call himself a foodie, purleez!
Wait! Before you start shaking your head or rolling your eyes, please let me explain myself:
General Tso’s chicken is a Chinese-American fusion kinda dish. Sure for those of you living in the States it is, like, the most popular Chinese restaurant menu item, ever! (correct me if I’m wrong here guys)
But, elsewhere – and by elsewhere I mean the places I have visited and/ or lived in and ordered Chinese takeout – it’s not a thing.
And then one day I saw it pop up on Pinterest. The name caught my attention and, once I had clicked on the pin, several thousand – nay, millions – of General Tso’s Chicken recipes flooded the screen before me.
What was this deep-fried, crispy chicken, drowned in sweet and delicious sauce? I had to try it, immediately.
And I did.
And It was good.
And I wanted to make it again. And for this second swoop at the recipe, I wanted try something a little different. And this was how today’s recipe came into being.
So that is what I have here for you, a Japanese inspired variant of General Tso’s chicken. I won’t say it’s better than the original (tough crowd) but it will certainly hit the deep-fired-chicken-drowned-in-delicious-sauce spot. So now, for a quick rundown on the recipe.
I read through so many General Tso’s chicken recipes whilst researching this recipe that I thought my head would explode. Many of these recipes called for a marinade. I love marinades (especially when I remember to use it 24 hours before I need the meat, win!) but I think there is a time and a place for them.
Deep frying bite-sized pieces of chicken, is not one of them (in my own opinion).
No matter how flavoursome your marinade is, and no matter how long you marinate your meat for, if you throw it into a deep pot of oil heated to 190°C, I can assure you, very little of that flavour will be left.
I know this because I have tried several different deep fried recipes (think calamari rings, chicken nuggets, and the like) only to find the awesome flavour combinations I came up with were lost.
Cue sad face emoji 😞😔😭
Besides, once this chicken has been cooked, it’s going to be drowned in a tantalising miso and sake infused sauce so why bother with the marinade? It’s just a little more effort, and a little more time, and a few more ingredients to buy…… Is it really worth it?
And when you want to get a delicious bowl of General Tso’s chicken on that table ASAP, extra time and money spent on a marinade will just not cut it, right?
So after all that: No marinade.
Also, I have decided to omit the obligatory dried chillies in this recipe. I don’t generally associate hot and spicy chilli with Japanese food so it felt strange keeping it here for this recipe, although I did toss a few slices of fresh red chilli as a garnish. I’ll leave that up to you and your own chilli preferences.
The Corn Starch Slurry
Have you ever played with “Magic Sand”? How weird is it, right? For those of you who have not played with it, imagine a brightly coloured substance that has the consistency somewhere between Playdough and, well, sand. You can mould it into all different shapes but it also moves and changes shape by itself. It really is the weirdest thing.
The corn starch slurry used for coating the chicken before it is deep fried is kinda like that. As you mix the cornstarch and water together you will be met with a weird consistency that is a thick batter and a liquid, all at the same time. And even when your head has wrapped itself around this perplexing concept you’ll still find yourself questioning its integrity as you try and coat the chicken in its weirdness.
My tip for you: persevere, slowly. Don’t throw the entire batch of chicken into the slurry and expect it to be evenly coated like a traditional batter because this won’t happen; unfortunately, this recipe is not so quick, easy and kind as that.
Coat a few pieces of chicken at a time and, between each couple of pieces, give the slurry a good stir with a spoon to keep it well combined. If possible, have the hot, frying oil at the ready so you can start cooking the chicken in batches as soon as it has been coated.
But, once you’ve mastered (or pretended to master, like I did) the cornstarch slurry and fried that chicken into crispy, golden perfection, then it is a simple case of drowning it in a thick sauce bursting with the flavours of miso and sake.
Then simply serve with rice and steamed broccoli (optional) and start feasting.
Before I leave you with the recipe, I will leave you with an ***important*** tip.
I tested and retested this recipe several times before I was happy with it but there was one thing I could never get right: saving it for leftovers.
The cornstarch batter around the chicken just doesn’t keep. Once it has been cooked it needs to be eaten right there and then. Placing it in the fridge (either covered in the sauce or not) causes that beautiful, golden and crispy chicken to become damp and limp, and no amount of refrying, oven baking, or broiling (grilling) will seem to return the crispiness, which means your delicious bowl of crispy General Tso’s chicken on the day of cooking, becomes a sodden bowl of crap on the following day.
So if you’re planning on making this recipe, plan to eat it on the day of cooking. This is certainly not a meal prep recipe meant to last the week.
Or, if you have had some success in keeping this sort of chicken for leftovers, please tell me how in the comments below, I need to know!
And that’s it for now my foodie friends!
General Tso’s (Japanese) Chicken with a Miso and Sake sauce
Take the classic Chinese-American dish and add the flavours of shiro-miso and sake, for a kick-ass deep-fried-chicken-dronwed-in-delicious-sauce meal!
- Prep Time: 20 to 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 36 minute
- Yield: Serves 4
- Cuisine: Chinese-Japanese-American-Fusion
- 500g boneless chicken thighs, cut into small bite-sized chunks
- Oil for deep frying
For the Cornstarch slurry
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
For the Sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- ¼ cup roughly chopped scallions
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup shiro miso paste
- 1/4 cup sake
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- Rice, steamed broccoli, dried/ fresh red chillies, green onions (all optional)
- Preheat your frying oil– either in a deep-fryer or in a pan, about 5cm deep – to 190°C/375°F . Preheat your oven to its lowest or “keep warm” setting.
- In a large bowl combine the egg, cornstarch and water until a batter like consistency is reached (see “Cornstarch Slurry” section in the post above). In batches, coat the chicken pieces in the slurry and add immediately to the hot oil and cook until golden, about three to five minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. (At this point you can choose to refry the chicken, in batches, for another minute or so but I don’t think it’s necessary). Continue with the remaining pieces and place the cooked chicken in the oven to keep warm.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the sesame oil and fry the scallions for several minutes until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or until fragrant. Add the soy sauce, miso paste, sake, mirin, vinegar, honey, and ¼ cup of water and mix until well combined. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer steadily for five minutes to allow it to recue a little.
- Take 1 tbsp of this sauce and mix it with the ½ tablespoon of cornstarch. Add this mixture back to the skillet/ wok and stir until the sauce thickens, a few minutes. Add the fried chicken pieces and turn to evenly coat in the sauce. Cook for another three to five minutes and then serve immediately.