I’ve never understood fried foods that are coated in sauce, like General Tso’s chicken and buffalo wings. For me, the best part of fried food is the crisp browned coating. Once you mix that with sauce and it loses its crunch, what’s the point?
So I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be deep-frying for my version of General Tso’s chicken. Pan-frying sounded a lot easier, as least as far as clean up goes, and it seems like it should be lighter than dumping the entire piece of meat in oil, right?
The chicken did end up good – like tender chicken nuggets – but I still have to wonder if using shredded roast chicken instead of breaded pieces would really be so bad. The rough texture of shredded chicken would soak up sauce just as well as the crags of breading. It would certainly be easier. I think the difference it would make on the final dish would be minimal, and it would without a doubt be worth avoiding the calories and mess of frying.
A couple of the commenters on the ATK recipe noted that the sauce lacked something, and I’d say what it’s lacking is balance. It was very sweet and dominated by hoisin, although this might depend largely on the brand of hoisin you use. (I used Sun Luck, the only one available in my town.)
½ cup hoisin
¼ tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1½ cup water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grated ginger
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1½ cup cornstarch
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 egg whites
oil for pan-frying
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1. In a medium bowl, mix the hoisin, white vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and water. Transfer 6 tablespoons of this mixture into a bowl with the chicken; stir to combine and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the hoisin mixture; increase the high to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and cover.
3. Add the cornstarch, flour, and baking soda to the bowl with the remaining hoisin mixture. Stir with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy.
4. Heat an ⅛-inch of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites, then the cornstarch mixture. Transfer to the hot skillet; cook, without moving, for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom is browned. Flip and brown the second side. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
5. Reheat the sauce over the medium heat. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Serve over rice, topping with the scallions.