When I go to a Chinese restaurant, I often order General Tso’s chicken. I like it because it is a meat-oriented dish, not served larded with a bunch of limp, overcooked vegetables. If you go to a place that makes it with broccoli, of course, you just ask that they make it without the broccoli, and then you end up with a dish of rice, chicken, and a tasty sauce. It is very good lunch-time fare.
Because I like General Tso’s chicken, I thought it was only appropriate to pay homage to General Tso himself — regardless of whether he invented the dish, or whether he enjoyed the dish and made it popular among his troops. I envisioned General Tso cooking as a hobby, or perhaps serving his chicken concoction to his legions of troops huddled at the base of the Great Wall. In either case, he obviously was a man of good taste and breeding, richly deserving of the immortal fame that accompanies commemoration on the Webnerhouse blog. Imagine my disappointment in learning that General Tso — although an actual Qing dynasty historical figure, pictured above — had nothing to do with the meal which bears his name. Not only is it believed that General Tso never even tasted the dish, it is suspected that the dish originated in America, not China! O, rank heresy! This discovery has shaken to the core my belief that ethnic restaurants are, in fact, reflective of actual ethnic cuisine. Why, it would be like learning that hamburgers and french fries aren’t American inventions.