Thigh-Mastering Taiwanese General Tso’s Chicken

When it comes to chicken, Michelle takes a dim view of dark meat. She admits the flavor is better than breast meat, especially from our local birds. But the lurking presence of fascia, tendons, cartilage and other “icky” pieces of non-contiguous chicken flesh always give her pause. Chicken thigh meat is one of the metrics Michelle uses to rate Asian restaurants (“This will tell the tale,” she reportedly once said while cutting into a piece of deep-fried Chinese restaurant chicken and has been teased about it for years since), the lack of ligament or other “not meat” stuff a reflection of the restaurant’s quality. Of course, this standard means that prepping thighs at home takes more time than just chopping breasts, but recently we found this Fuchsia Dunlop recipe for General Tso’s chicken worth the effort.

We usually avoid this dish when eating out; Steve from office-lunch-place-induced boredom and Michelle from the aforementioned fear of ickiness. But faced with a frozen package of thighs and most of the right ingredients (confession: Gourmandistan has only a hazy understanding of the difference between “light” and “dark” soy sauce, usually interpreting the combined amount as “soy sauce”), we decided to give General Tso a go. In her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, Dunlop details two versions of this classic dish: “Taiwan” and “Changsha.”  We chose the Taipei take after reading it “lacks the sweetness of the Americanized version” while the Changsha more mimicked the take-out Steve grew so tired of.

General Tso—indeed, a tale well told.


  1. I’m so with Michelle on the ickiness thing. Can’t believe that as a child I actually liked drumsticks. What was I thinking? Those tendons snapped right back at you.

    Yet there’s hope for boneless thighs. Glad you gave General Tso a go. Thighs also work great for Panko Chicken and Chicken Tonkatsu. Lots of dipping sauce, of course. Otherwise dark meat and I are not friends.

  2. I haven’t eaten Chinese food in a long time. In England I would eat it at least once a week, but France and China ( with regard to restaurants) don’t appear to be on speaking terms. I follow Fuschia Dunlop on Twitter and very much like her ideas.

    • We actually ate at a Chinese buffet in Normandy this fall. It appeared to be very popular with the locals, but was totally strange. Though not half as strange as the Chinese place we tried in Italy last year where they tried to turn everything into an Italian meal (primo, secondo, pasta, etc.). And, sadly, badly.

    • Glad to know we’re not alone. We went through a stage where we bought all the soys (light, dark, mushroom, etc., etc.). But we never seemed to appreciate the differences, so we gave it up.

      • Oh! This is the one Asian thing I got down!

        I use a lighter Japanese soy for Japanese-y stuff, and a darker soy for Chinese-y stuff. The darker so is saltier, heavier, and caramelizes better.

        And the mushroom stuff I won’t touch,

        There! I have exhausted my cultural knowledge about my heritage!

  3. How I wish I could find a General Tso’s that looks and (presumably) tastes like that pictured above! The recipe is a good one. I need to muster the courage to try it.

    • My dream is to have a really good Chinese place nearby that uses local and sustainable meats and veg. Failing that, I’m happy to use Ms. Dunlop’s recipes at home. And they’re always delicious. Can’t recommend her books highly enough. Don’t be afraid!

  4. Well, as someone who just complimented a fellow blogger on her post about kidneys, I admit I am one of those guys who does eat EVERYTHING. Nevertheless, this sounds delicious, and it’s the second Fuschia Dunlop reference I’ve come across this week. Clearly, I need to read some FD. Great post that sounds delicious. Ken

    • Steve is right there with you (as long as it’s not liver). I’m the picky one, and ever so sorry about it. Someday, I hope we’ll have a Chinese restaurant using local and sustainable ingredients. Until we do, I’ll keep using Dunlop’s quite wonderful cookbooks at home. Do check them out—I can’t recommend them highly enough.

    • It is embarrassing. I know I’m supposed to like the dark meat better. Have you tried her new cookbook? We’ve just started into it (I had to order the UK version, as it’s not out yet here), and it seems as good as the others.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: