Zuo Zongtang Ji (General Tso's Chicken)

"This dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang (Cantonese), or Zuo Zongtang (Mandarin), a Qing dynasty general and statesman from Hunan Province. The recipe was invented by Taiwan-based Hunan cuisine chef Peng Chang-kuei (Peng Jia). Peng Jia was the Nationalist government banquets' chef and fled with Chiang Kai-shek's forces to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. He continued his career as official chef for the government until 1973 when he moved to New York to open a restaurant, Peng's Restaurant on East 44th Street. That was where Peng Jia modified a traditional dish to create General Tso's Chicken and made it the house specialty in spite of the dish's commonplace ingredients. The popularity of the dish has now led to it being "adopted" by local Hunanese chefs, perhaps as an acknowledgment of the dish's unique status, upon which the international reputation of Hunanese cuisine was largely based. NOTE: this dish makes enough sauce for a light coating. Double the sauce, if you want."
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  • It is recommended that you use an instant read digital thermometer to maintain correct oil temperature while frying.
  • In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Stir gently to coat the chicken and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • In a small dry frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are light brown in color and aromatic. Transfer to a small dish and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and stir until the sugar and the cornstarch are fully dissolved. Set aside.
  • Toss the 1 1/2 cups cornstarch with the salt and pepper in a large bowl or deep plate. Coat the marinated chicken in the cornstarch mixture and shake off any excess before frying.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed pot until it registers 350 degrees F. Working in 2 or 3 batches, add the first batch of chicken cubes and deep fry until lightly golden on the outside and cooked through (3-4 minutes). Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • When finished cooking chicken, take the first batch and return then to the 350 degree oil. Continue cooking for 30-45 more seconds so they become golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  • Transfer the oil to a heat-proof container. It will take about 1 hour to fully cool, after which you can transfer it to a container with a tight lid for disposal. If you used a wok, just wipe down the inside with a paper towel and if you used a heavy-bottomed pot, switch to a large skillet for stir-frying.
  • Heat the wok or skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the 1 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat the wok or pan. Add the chiles and garlic and stir-fry until just fragrant (20 seconds). Pour in the sauce mixture and heat briefly to thicken (just under a rolling boil).
  • Return the chicken to the wok and stir well to coat with sauce. transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

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