GENERAL TSAO’S CHICKEN WINGS
This is a seriously, seriously great General Tsao’s recipe. I was never a General Tsao’s fan but this, this I can really down a bucket.
The recipe is roughly based on The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, which I have, as I always do, rendered almost unrecognizable. Besides sugar and ketchup, almost none of the original ingredients has remained intact (see note at the end of the recipe) but something tells me that it can stand proudly on its own. The chicken wings are impossibly crispy, and more importantly, stay crispy even if they are hopelessly coated with this fruity, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce under that rich and deep rouge color with an almost jewel-like gloss. Really, this sauce, a reduction of pomegranate and cranberry juice with a layering of vinegars, chili paste and garlic . I don’t even care if you did it justice by frying your own batch of crunchy jacket-ed wings. I mean drench your McNuggets in it for all I care and I guarantee you that you’ll still want to bottle your own.
I don’t have much else to add, especially about the mystical emergence of General Tsao’s chicken in virtually every Chinese restaurant in the US (I mean Netflix has a documentary on it for crying out loud). When things are looking good, just shut up and wing it.
Generously adapted from "General Tsao's veal ribs" in The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 cup (236 grams) red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup (178 grams) pomegranate juice
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (195 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (88 grams) Chinese white rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) cranberry juice
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp (49 grams) sichuan chili bean paste, or salted chili condiment (see note)
- 2 tsp (15 grams) ketchup
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 1/2 tsp tapioca flour + 2 1/2 tsp water (see note)
- 35 oz (1 kg) chicken wings
- salt and pepper to season
- 1 cup (110 grams) tapioca flour
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- canola oil for frying
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup (38 grams) Chinese dried chili
- 4 shallots, cut into quarters
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- chopped cilantro to garnish
- TO MAKE THE SAUCE: In a sauce pot over medium heat, add vegetable oil and grated garlic. Cook until fragrant but not browned, then add red wine vinegar, pomegranate juice, granulated sugar, white rice vinegar, cranberry juice, apple cider vinegar, sichuan chili bean paste, ketchup and honey. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for about 1 hour until the mixture is reduced down by a little more than 1/2, and becomes syrupy in consistency. Mix tapioca flour and water until even, then slowly drizzle into the sauce while stirring constantly. Once the mixture is evenly incorporated, cook for another 10 min until thickened. Can be made up to a day before.
- TO FRY THE CHICKEN WINGS: Season all sides of the chicken wings with about a heaping 1/2 tsp of salt and a generously dusting of ground white and black pepper. Let marinate for at least 2 hours to 6 hours in the fridge.
- Add enough canola oil into a frying-pot until it reaches 2" deep then set over medium-high heat until it comes to 350 F/175 C (or until it bubbles immediately around an inserted wooden chopstick). Meanwhile, whisk tapioca flour, garlic powder, salt, ground white and black pepper together in a large bowl. Drench the wings evenly in the mixture, dusting off any excess and let sit for 6~8 min for the flour to hydrate, then drench again for a second coating (this gives the a really nice and crispy crust). Fry in the oil in small batches until light golden browned (tapioca breading will not get as much color as wheat flour), then set aside on a cooling rack to drain.
- TO FINISH COOKING: In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil, dried chili and shallots. Cook until the chili has darkened in color and smells fragrant. Add the grated garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the fried chicken wings and the General Tsao's sauce (just enough to coat). Turn and cook until all the wings are nicely coated and hot. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.
The original recipe uses hibiscus flower to provide extra colors and flavors to the sauce. I don't have hibiscus flower so instead, I'm using pomegranate juice and cranberry juice. Besides a great deep color, they add a wonderful fruitiness and extra depth to the otherwise boring "sweet and sour" sauce.
Instead of the "salted chili condiment" from the original recipe, I'm using store-bought sichuan's chili bean paste for a more matured and fermented flavour. If you don't have it, or prefer the "salted chili condiment", here's how to make it: Pulse 1 pound of Fresno or jalapeno chili with 1 tbsp kosher salt until coarsely pureed. Let sit in a lidded container in a warm place for 2 days until it resembles wet salsa.
Different from the original recipe, I like to pre-thicken the General Tsao's sauce for two reasons. 1) It makes my life easier. 2) Pre-thickened sauce doesn't wet the wings as much (it just coats them) and thus retains the crispiness much better. And instead of cornstarch or potato starch, I like to use tapioca flour to thicken because it provides a better shine, and doesn't become watery again due to time and stirring.
Fernando @ Eating With Your HandsJune 22, 2016 at 7:04 PM
Soooo succulent and awesome, Mandy!! Have you seen the doc on Netflix though? Been seeing it on my timeline all the time but too lazy to hit play. Yup, that’s the state I’m in lately.
DominiqueJune 22, 2016 at 8:21 PM
I have an unhealthy obsession with chicken wings! Love this spin! Also, never used tapioca flour either. Very curious about it now.
MarianJune 22, 2016 at 9:48 PM
What can I use instead of tapioca flour.
It’s not available here
mandy@ladyandpupsJune 22, 2016 at 11:12 PM
Marian, if it’s not available then use potato starch, or cornstarch (but this is my last option).
Jackie FletcherJune 22, 2016 at 11:37 PM
I have no doubt – you are the most talented artist, cooking and food artist.
StaceyJune 22, 2016 at 11:42 PM
You never cease to amaze! I am in awe!
cynthiaJune 22, 2016 at 11:58 PM
Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.
J.S. @ Sun Diego EatsJune 23, 2016 at 12:58 AM
It’d be interesting with hibiscus it also has more of a fruity flavour than a true floral flavour. I’ve been debating buying the Mission Chinese cookbook or Talde’s Asian American one…
georgeJune 23, 2016 at 4:12 AM
It’ll be Gen. Tsao’s Chicken Wings tomorrow night! alright alright alright…
KariJune 23, 2016 at 8:06 AM
Those look delicious! So gooey!
eileenJune 24, 2016 at 5:10 AM
i want to eat these …now … but not sure i have the patience to prepare them
AleksandraJuly 6, 2016 at 7:06 AM
A sauce made with pomegranate sounds soooo delicious. Will have to try it! Thank you
Amaryllis @ The Tasty OtherJuly 18, 2016 at 11:33 PM
You had me at ‘fruity, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce under that rich and deep rouge color’. Sounds like a dream, bet it tastes like one too. Thanks for sharing, Mandy!
SabrinaAugust 1, 2016 at 8:33 PM
Wow, these wings look and sound amazing!
AbbyJanuary 27, 2017 at 5:17 PM
Hi Mandy – Do you think I can use boneless thighs for these?
mandy@ladyandpupsJanuary 28, 2017 at 3:24 PM
Abby, yeah sure of course!
sonya markhamDecember 14, 2017 at 7:52 AM
How long will the marinade last once made up.
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 15, 2017 at 2:09 AM
Sonya, what do you mean by marinate?
Yuksel CoulingNovember 20, 2018 at 4:09 AM
Can we bbq the chicken wings instead of frying ?
I know it might be a silly question lol.