It was most likely developed in the United States by a Chinese chef and it became an instant success!
Maybe you have ordered this dish at a Chinese restaurant or ordered it to 'Take Out' at some time - I know we have. The fact that it isn't an authentic recipe direct from Asia doesn't diminish how delicious it tastes!
I will warn you that making this dish as written is a rather lengthy process but well worth the effort. Please see my notes at the end to see how you can prepare this without deep-frying and also be sure to double the sauce in the recipe. You won't be sorry :) This would also make a delicious appetizer and could be served as you would mini meatballs.
General Tsao's ChickenAdapted from Allrecipes
Orange zest and whole dried chiles give the sauce a delightful, restaurant quality flavor.
For the chicken - please see my note below if you wish to avoid the deep fry method*
4 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (you may substitute chicken breast)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 pinch white pepper
1 cup cornstarch
For the sauce - please see my note below**
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
6 dried whole red chilies
1 strip orange zest
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Heat 4 cups vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Using olive oil for the deep frying would be a slightly healthier option.
Beat the egg in a mixing bowl. Add the chicken cubes; sprinkle with salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and white pepper; mix well. Mix in 1 cup of cornstarch a little bit at a time until the chicken cubes are well coated.
In batches, carefully drop the chicken cubes into the hot oil one by one, cooking until they turns golden brown and begin to float, about 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and allow to cool as you fry the next batch. Once all of the chicken has been fried, refry the chicken, starting with the batch that was cooked first. Cook until the chicken turns deep golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Stir in the green onion, garlic, whole chiles, and orange zest. Cook and stir a minute or two until the garlic has turned golden and the chiles brighten. Add 1/2 cup sugar, the ginger, chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and peanut oil; bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.
Dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into the water, and stir into the boiling sauce. Return to a boil and cook until the sauce thickens and is no longer cloudy from the cornstarch, about 1 minute. Stir the cooked chicken into the boiling sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook for a few minutes until the chicken absorbs some of the sauce.
Serve with rice or with steamed broccoli, as I did. Or both! Top with additional orange zest and thinly sliced green onions, if desired.
If you wish to avoid the deep-frying method, use chicken breast cubed and seasoned. Saute in a little oil until cooked, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes. Simply add the sauteed cubes to the finished sauce as stated above.
**The sauce it so good, I advice doubling the sauce ingredients!