Friday and Saturday nights all over seem to be the nights that people really go for takeout, at least in my neck of the woods. I think most people do not feel like cooking when it comes to the weekend after a long week of work, school, afterschool activities, chores and everything else you need to take care of on a daily basis. While simply calling the local pizza place or Chinese takeout is a great option that everyone turns to now and then, you can make some of your favorite takeout items right at home without spending a lot of time or money and they will taste even better than what you are paying for at a restaurant. One of my personal takeout favorites has always been General Tso’s chicken at the local Chinese restaurant here. You get the combination of a sweet and spicy glaze and sauce coating breaded chicken that tastes amazing and you would never think it is something you could duplicate at home – but you can quite easily. I found this recipe from Saveur for General Tso’s chicken that is easy to make and tastes just as good if not better than what comes in those little white containers.
General Tso’s Chicken
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken stock
7 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 cups plus 9 tablespoons peanut, vegetable or canola oil
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
16 chiles de arbol
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
Thinly sliced scallions, to garnish
Whisk the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch, the rice vinegar, tomato paste, 3 tablespoons of the light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the dark soy sauce and 3 tablespoons of water in a bowl; set the sauce aside.
Place the remaining cornstarch and both of the remaining soy sauces, the chicken pieces, 3 tablespoons of the oil and the egg yolks in a large bowl and toss them together. Pour 3 1/2 cups of the oil into a large skillet, flat-bottomed wok or Dutch oven. Heat the over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces, tossing them occasionally, until they are cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain and set them aside. Repeat the process until all of the chicken is cooked. Discard the oil in the pan and wipe the pan clean.
Return the pan to high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the ginger, garlic and the chiles; fry, stirring constantly, until the mixture is fragrant and the chiles begin to change color, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved sauce; cook until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and fry, tossing constantly, until the chicken pieces are evenly coated with the sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and top with the sliced scallions.
I have to say that the sauce was spot on as far as taste and texture. It was just like what you get with your takeout order, even though instead of chile de arbol, which I did not have on hand and rarely see around here, I used some Thai garlic chili sauce instead. I think you would get a more authentic flavor with the chile de arbol if you use them, but this was pretty close. The only difference I made from the recipe other than that was that I was using breaded chicken thigh pieces that I had left over from a meal earlier in the week so it was a bit of a cheat for me but I think it worked well. The difference with leftovers was that the coating of the chicken did not go all the way around the chicken pieces as it would if you followed this recipe exactly, but it was still good. Serve this with some white rice or fried rice and you have a great takeout meal all of your own.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!