General Tso's Chicken
General Tso's Chicken is a traditional Chinese dish that is made with slightly sweet and spicy chicken that is deep fried then served with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar served along side rice, chili peppers and broccoli.
Now, you maybe asking yourself who is this General Tso and why on earth does he have a chicken dish named after him?
Well, some say the dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang of the Qing Dynasty, but there are no evidence whether General Tso knows about this dish at all. Although Tso was a great military leader, there is little document to prove how the dish is related to him. I'm sure his family was pleased to know that despite his military greatness, he was honored with medals, and also honored with having a very tasty chicken dish named for him.
What is known about the dish may be more an Chinese-American invention then just Chinese. Most say the dish appeared after World War II in 1949 by Chinese chefs who left their country to come to America.
Two NYC Restaurants Claim
One Chinese restaurant in New York City said the dish was actually introduced there in 1977 by Chef Peng Jia and made it the specialty of the house. But another New York City restaurant claims that THEY were the ones who invented the dish in their restaurant and that other restaurants in the NYC area copied their recipe. The dish is considered by some part of what is known as Hunan Cooking which a lot of Chinese restaurants here in the US are based on. Hunan cooking is based on using spicy ingredients in Chinese cuisine. Although General Tso's Chicken is suppose to be spicy, it can also be mixed with sweet ingredients as well. But in traditional Hunan cooking in China, the dish is mainly suppose to be served as a spicy dish.
The real truth may lie with chef Peng Chang-kuei who cooked Huanase food for years, but says this about the dish in a 2004 NPR story that "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." But in order to please his American audience, Chang-kuei said he added a sweet taste to it. "The original dish was Hunanese in taste and made without sugar," he says, "but when I began cooking for non-Hunanese people in the United States, I altered the recipe."
So, maybe that answers the question on who really invented this dish. As for the name of the dish, I believe it's named similarly to another famous Chinese dish: Dongpo Pork where Dongpo is a famous scholar from Song Dynasty. The creator of the General Tso's Chicken needed a name for the new dish he invented, the dish was Hunan flavor so he decided to pick a famous person from Hunan to name it and General Tso naturally came up because of his fame.