April 11, 2014

"Did he love chicken? We don't know. Nobody knows."

He = General Tso.

22 comments:

Shane said...

This post (and link)'is precisely why Althouse is one of the four sites I read every morning, why I shop thru Amazon only here and via Instapundit (in solidarity) and why my family thinks I am off when I refer to "Ann" as if we have been lifelong friends, rather than blogger/absorber for going on ten years now.

On a different level, as a retired prosecutor who had to get out bc enforcing the law upon others' lives makes for a repetitive and depressing vocation when you begin meeting third generation users and a users, this site gives me hope that the newbies are in good hands, at least at UW.

Thank you for everything. I am also hitting the paypal tip jar. It's nice to be on vacation in the Keys and have a sense of home across Lake Midhigan.

Bob Ellison said...

I have hens, and when they fall behind on laying, I put up a picture of General Tso in the henhouse.

My favorite fast-Chinese-food eatery had a lighted picture of their excellent dish with this caption: "General Tos's Chicken".

DrMaturin said...

Jennifer 8 Lee wrote about visiting the village where General Tso was born. No one there had heard of the dish.

EDH said...

From what I've heard, it sounds like Colonel Sanders outranks General Tso in China.

Mitch H. said...

I know a guy who used to run a Chinese restaurant with his wife - they specialized in Yunnan cuisine, which was a lot of fun, especially his cold rice noodles on the one hand, and their *very* gingery fish & green onions dish on the other hand.

He *loathed* getting orders for General Tso.

John said...

There is an intereting Ted Talk on General Tso's Chicken by a Chinese comedian(?)

General Tso's Chicken, as a menu item, traces its existence to a single NYC restaurant in about 1976.

By 1980, it was on the menu in something like 30,000 out of 40,000 US Chinese restaurants.

All of these restaurants are mostly independent of each others (some small 3-5 store chains). What is amazing is that this is faster than McDonalds can roll out a new product across its restaurants.

I wondered if the story were true and found an academic research paper about the chicken which pretty well confirmed it.

Also, fortune cookies are the invention of a San Francisco, non-Chinese, baker back in the early 1900s. They are unheard of in China.

John Henry

Saint Croix said...

What I would like to know is how you pronounce his frickin' name. I went with General SO for many years, but along the way the oh changed to ow. And I've totally lost confidence in my first syllable. Sometimes I say General DOW and sometimes I say General SOW. Or General TOW.

Sometimes I don't even know what the hell I'm saying, I just want to bark it out there. And sometimes I just give up and say General chicken please. And they always know what I'm ordering, even if I'm not sure what the hell I'm saying. I think they go with "General" and ignore whatever the hell I bark after that.

John said...

Speaking of Col Sanders and chicken:

Chick-Fil-A sold more chicken than KFC in 2013 to move to #9 on the list of fast food restaurants.

Not only did they sell more chicken, they did it being open only 5 days a week and with only a third of the stores KFC has.

Yeah, the gays have some real power. That boycott must have really hurt CFA.

I suspect that they lost some sales for being mean to gays but probably gained a lot more from people who didn't care about the issue but figured they should try it.

As well as some people who started going specifically because of the gay hoopla.

If the whole issue was not a massive publicity stunt, it should have been.

John Henry

Saint Croix said...

And it should be brown, not red, in my opinion. And oranges? I am not happy if there are oranges. Oranges are wrong. And I like to see red peppers that are floating in the sauce, that you don't want to eat. Also, rice. I'm assuming she brought some rice out. What a freaky dish that would be without rice.

DrMaturin said...

General Tso is best known in China for his service in putting down the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century, believed to be the bloodiest civil war in human history.

JPS said...

I'm going to have to find the clip from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist in which a comedian describes his confusion on Chinese chicken dishes named after generals.

Speculating that the highest decoration in the Chinese Army must be to have a chicken dish named after you, he imagines General Gao meeting General Tso - roughly:

"Pleased to meet you, General. I admire your chicken."

"Thank you, General. I admire yours too."

The Drill SGT said...

I'm with SC

I like to see big red peppers in my Hunan and Thai stuff. The easier to avoid. Nothing worse that thinking a Thai Bird Green Chili is part of a green bean...

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Shane!

It's especially encouraging when readers like this sort of thing...

Tank said...

John said...
Speaking of Col Sanders and chicken:

Chick-Fil-A sold more chicken than KFC in 2013 to move to #9 on the list of fast food restaurants.

Not only did they sell more chicken, they did it being open only 5 days a week and with only a third of the stores KFC has.

Yeah, the gays have some real power. That boycott must have really hurt CFA.

I suspect that they lost some sales for being mean to gays but probably gained a lot more from people who didn't care about the issue but figured they should try it.

As well as some people who started going specifically because of the gay hoopla.

If the whole issue was not a massive publicity stunt, it should have been.

John Henry


That's pretty much how I started to watch Duck Dynasty, which I had never heard of before the whole "controversy."

traditionalguy said...

General Tso's last orders: Eat Mor Chikin! But hold the hot mustard.

Cedarford said...

Watched the video, which did not list the inventor, but looked up info elsewhere out of curiosity.

The dish for sure originated in New York City, in the 1970s. Several immigrant Chefs claimed to have invented it, but the strongest claim appears to be by Peng Chang-kuei, who was a chef for the Nationalist government, who opened a restaurant in NYC in the early 70s. He adapted certain chinese dishes to a "Western palate"...naming a Hunan dish rejiggered with new ingredients, esp. lots of sugar "General Tso's Chicken". It received rave reviews in NYC, and other chinese restaurants recreated it and tweaked it further until it is different tasting than the dish of 40 years ago.
In China, the dish is virtually unknown. Chinese that have tried it commonly criticize it as far too sweet in taste. Within the "real Chinese chef" community, the dish is reviled, and many consider people ordering it on par with how French chefs feel when diners ask for a "big bottle of ketchup" to squeeze on their cuisine.

General Tso himself was a real general that supposedly loved meat and was the one who put down the Taiping Rebellion in the 19th century. And pushed Russian and Muslim incursions back.
A Chinese hero admired by both Nationalist and Communist Chinese.

T J Sawyer said...

You should have blogged this interesting story when it appeared in the NYT magazine back in 2007.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/magazine/04food.t.html?pagewanted=all

I have introduced the "original" version to many people and they all love it in comparison to the sugared American version.

richlb said...

@john henry

Actually, Chick-Fil-A is open 6 days a week (closed on Sundays).

And the reason they crush KFC is all about one word: service. Sure, the food tastes good (except the damn pickles on a chicken sandwich, an abomination, don't get me started), but the one thing you get at a CFA is a smile and the feeling they care. The one I go to, which is across the street from a KFC, is awesome. Someone always walks around and asks if they can clear your tray when you are done eating. They offer to get refills for you. They bring mints. And this is at an intersection that is a bit sketchy.

What a difference from the dithering idiots they seem to employ over at KFC.

Saint Croix said...

What a difference from the dithering idiots they seem to employ over at KFC.

Chick-Fil-A has scholarship programs for all the people who work there. So if you're a high school student, it's an awesome job. They attract a lot of young people who are highly motivated.

Foobarista said...

In case anyone's wondering who the real General Tso is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuo_Zongtang

He was basically the General Grant of the Taiping Tianguo Rebellion, which was fought at exactly the same time as the American Civil War.

I saw his home in Nanjing a couple years ago. (and no, they didn't serve General Tso's chicken...)

Saint Croix said...

Sure, the food tastes good (except the damn pickles on a chicken sandwich, an abomination, don't get me started)

Yeah! What kind of devious, foul mind puts a pickle on top of a chicken? And then serves it to people. Like that's normal!

But it's okay. I have disciplined my mind, body and soul. So now it's automatic. "Without the pickle." I don't even have to think about it. I am a Chick-Fil-A ordering machine.

I remember one time some jackass in the kitchen pulled the pickle off my sandwich and tried to pass it off as pickle-free. What, you think the pickle juice is not going to seep into the bread? When I say "no pickles," I mean, "no pickles." Don't make me turn my car around.

That pickle thing is the weirdest thing about that whole Chick-Fil-A operation. What are you, a pickle fetishist? You are putting pickles in places where pickles are not meant to go.

It's like one of those tribes out in Africa who intentionally puts mistakes in their art so as not to offend God. "I have made the perfect chicken sandwich. And now I will add a foul-tasting pickle."

You know how arrogant you have to be to intentionally screw up your food like that? And still I eat there once a week.

ken in sc said...

I am pretty sure Tso is pronounced cho or joe. The ts in Chinese words were invented by the French,who can't spell for diddly.