Confession No. 62 — Well, if that’s not the pot calling the kettle black (Recipe: General Tso’s Chicken)

For every blunder that my wife has committed, I’ve pulled off at least two. How do I know? Because she remembers my mishaps like they happened this morning.

Like the time I showed up at her family’s Easter dinner with a box of Long John Silver’s for myself. (I’m not overly fond of lamb. Besides, I hadn’t had those salty little crunchies in quite some time.) There was also the time I told our morning radio audience that my wife was pregnant with twins. I’m not sure why I said it — or even thought it. Still, I’m Guilty.

I was also in error for encouraging a Disney World vacation with a two-year-old. By the second day of that dreadful sabbatical,  my wife was dealing with a pair of boys who made everyone suffer our ‘terrible twos.’ My bad.

I’ll never forget the heated argument with my beloved better half, during which I went off about my sister in-law. It would have been long forgotten under most circumstances, except someone threw something and inadvertently hit the ‘record greeting’ button on the answering machine. Who later called and heard a one-minute portion of my profane-laden diatribe? You guessed it.

I’ve screwed the pooch on many occasions, but I’m most commonly guilty of serving meals that deserve a Scoville rating (She prefers mild), or forgetting the names of very important people in her family (and mine too).

But, enough about me.

These are my column inches and I have gained approval from She who is to be obeyed to explain some reasons behind my stresses.

There’s a reason for that color
We all know that red means to stop and green signifies go. While the jury is still out on yellow, I think most people can agree that it grabs your attention and gets you to thinking. When that yellow happens to be of the fluorescent hue and it covers an erect concrete pylon weighing at least 500 lbs., it’s meant to be seen.

Enter my wife and our (previously) beautiful silver Honda Odyssey.

After making her purchase at an office supply store, she re-entered the vehicle and began backing out of her parking space. What happened next is … still somewhat of a mystery.

All I know is, our beautiful new van now had a dent about half the length of the vehicle. About 3-inches wide, it started just behind the front passenger door and made path to beyond the rear passenger door, inhibiting (the door’s) operation. Apparently, the quarter ton bright yellow pylon was rendered invisible for that moment in time.

My wife maintains that the pylon was in a blind spot. The insurance adjuster didn’t agree.

Nuggets, fries and imminent danger
Never did I believe that I would be excited about a minivan. But the Honda Odyssey was different. It was comfortable, with bells and whistles not yet available on other brands, and it had a zippy engine with tight suspension. Yes, it was fun to drive. Plus, it was a Honda.

Perhaps the coolest thing about this state-of-the-art family vehicle was the door sensor. These are common nowadays, but at the time, Honda was the only company that offered something that acted like an elevator door, bouncing off of any object and reversing course.

One day, my wife decided to go to the store alone. And who could blame her? Certainly not our then-three-year-old daughter, who bolted for the vehicle and tried to slip past the closing passenger door — which didn’t reverse course.

I grabbed her kicking legs as she screamed and cried (not about the door, but about wanting to go with Mom), and I yanked her from harm’s way. The coolest function on the coolest minivan in history had nearly killed our youngest child.

Or so I thought.

“Mr. Holland, your Odyssey is ready,” the polite mechanic said. “You can come pick it up any time you want.”

I responded, almost excited that our incident was going to incite a firestorm of international media coverage, recalls and so on.

“Are y’all going to do a recall? Or at least a technical service bulletin? That door has a major flaw.”

“Aww, no sir,” he said, laughing under his breath. “There were some chicken nuggets and French fries lodged in the door and they messed up the sensor.”

The pork roast incident
Imagine doing your business, only to have to do some mopping … and more mopping because the water elevated and spilled all over your bathroom tile.

It happens on occasion, but the stopped-up potty at our Manahawkin, NJ home in the mid 1990s was a blockage for the ages.

“Catherine, where is the plunger,” I asked my wife, exiting the facilities.

“Under the sink,” she responded. “But before you…”

“OK,” I responded. “There’s a flood…”

As I grabbed the tool and started making my way back to the restroom, she said something that I’ll never forget.

“I’m not sure the plunger will work. I flushed a pork roast.”

“Seriously?” I responded.

“Yes,” she said with a guilty half-smile. “I was cleaning out the refrigerator and it’s several days before trash pickup…”

“You mean the left-overs of that fresh ham we baked last week? Did you cut it up before you flushed it?”

“Umm, no,” she responded.

Catherine, as usual, was correct. The plunger didn’t work. Neither did the snake. The gallon of sulfuric acid was also of no use.

I never knew that roasting a pork would also lead me to uninstalling and reinstalling a toilet for the very first time. I won’t share all the details of what was required to make that toilet flush-able once again. But I will say this …

If I could go back in time, I’d have skipped that pork in lieu of Long John Silver’s.

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I have a go-to dish at every restaurant. It’s the dish that just about anyone should get right. (If they don’t, I never return.) At a steakhouse, it’s the ribeye. A seafood joint ought to know how to fry a piece of fish. Tex-Mex — Tamales. And Chinese takeout … General Tso’s Chicken. Not all General Tso’s Chicken recipes are created equally, but I’ve spent a few years working on this one. Don’t be afraid of cornstarch in the marinade. I learned this little trick from Martin Yan years ago during a cooking class at Macy’s.

General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso's Chicken is an easy dish to prepare and you'll enjoy this version much more than any that comes in a Chinese takeout box.

This General Tso’s Chicken is much tastier than anything that comes in a Chinese takeout box.

General Tso's Chicken
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 4
  • 1 lb – Dark chicken meat, cut into 1 - 1 ½-inch chunks.
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 – egg white
  • 1 ½ tsp – toasted sesame oil
  • 1 TB – Soy sauce
  • 4 TB – Cornstarch
  • 1 cup – Chicken stock
  • ¼ cup – Soy sauce
  • 1 TB – Cornstarch
  • 3 – Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TB – Fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 TB – Brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 tsp – Chile garlic paste (more, if you prefer a spicier dish)
  • 2 – Green onions, chopped or sliced thinly
  1. Whisk all batter ingredients in a medium bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat well. Set aside for about 10 minutes (or in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes). This process is known as velveting and is commonly used in Chinese restaurants.
  2. In another small bowl (or large measuring cup), mix chicken stock, ¼ cup each of soy sauce and cornstarch, brown sugar and chile garlic paste.
  3. Begin preheating to high about a half-inch of vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. -or- Preheat your deep fryer to a high setting.
  4. Meanwhile, heat about 1 TB of vegetable oil (medium high) in a skillet or saucepan and add ginger and garlic.
  5. Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Give the broth/soy sauce mixture another quick whisk and add to the pan, stirring constantly. The sauce will begin to thicken immediately and should be completed within 2-3 minutes of cooking.
  7. When done, turn heat to low and add green onions.
  8. In preheated frying oil, add chicken chunks. Don't overcrowd pan; cook about 3-4 minutes, turning as necessary, until golden brown.
  9. Drain on paper plates.
  10. Add to heated sauce and toss to coat.
  11. Garnish with more sliced green onions. Serve with steamed white rice and broccoli. Or, for a change of pace, serve with Szechuan 'Dry' Fried Green Beans or a quick snow pea sauté. Don't forget the egg rolls!





  1. The Mom Chef says:

    Wow. I think I’ll leave that whole first section at that.

    It must be the fates because I was just going through this month’s issue of Saveur and saw a recipe for both General Tso’s Chicken and dry-fried green beans. I love the former and have never heard of the later. Your recipe for the chicken is very different than the magazine’s (they use egg yolks in the batter, not the whites). I might just have to try both!

    • Mom Chef – First, Saveur is the best food/cooking magazine in the history of paper and ink. I’m glad you mentioned the yolk. If you choose to use white meat in the dish, I would highly recommend using the entire egg to promote quicker browning. Dry fried green beans are the ones you typically see on a Chinese buffet, by the way.

  2. juanitascocina says:

    This is my favorite Chinese food restaurant dish. Never made it. Why? Because I’ve been waiting for your version.

    Also, I definitely would have flushed the pork roast.

  3. Holy cow. Flushed a pork roast? LMAO. This is too funny. 🙂

  4. So excited that you posted this recipe … no more take-out for me!

    • It really is a better version than what you get at the local Chinese dive. Of course, I’ll still go out for Chinese, but this is one more for the recipe repertoire. Glad you stopped by!

  5. Fun-fun-funny! Thank you for starting off my day with a grin 🙂

  6. David Gano says:

    I just cant help but laugh and think that I could totally see this happening in your household……and mine. Let me know next time you need a Guinnea pig.

  7. Catherine says:

    OK, I feel the need to defend my actions…. My mom flushed everything down the toilet when she was cleaning out the fridge, So I was just doing what I was taught. The pork roast was not THAT BIG, but obviously too big for the circumference of the toilet itself. Had we had our dog Polly back then, she would have eaten it. Maybe you can blog about her eating our frozen beef roast one day.

    Oh, and the van was taller than that pylon!!! 😉

    • Polyantha didn’t eat a frozen beef roast. She ate a standing rib roast that was RESTING after it was cooked. Who knew that Boxers could jump up on the counter?

    • Catherine, never mind the pork roast, I completely understand the stupid pylon explanation. My husband’s sacred basketball pole just hit the bumper of my car after my many requests that he knock that foolish, rusted old thing out of there.
      I think they also should have recalled the van door sensors since they should be able to withstand a few nuggets and fries. I remember bringing my very first new car back to the dealer multiple times because whenever it rained I would get a loud rapping sound on my door. Could never recreate it until I drove there one day when it was raining and took the salesman for a ride. Sure ‘Nuf, we got driving and rap, rap, rap! Aha, vindicated! Guy had me pull over, he got out, opened my door and put the belt on my trenchcoat back in. But at least I knew I wasn’t hearing things right?

  8. A whole pork roast?! wow….I’ve done some special things in my day but wow….haha. Lucky I have a dog who takes care of anything that slightly resembles food. Oooh thanks for the general tso’s chicken recipe….I worked at a PF Chang’s forever and that was one of my favorites!

    • Mei – It was a nice sized chunk off a larger pork roast. Definitely enough to make some sandwiches or serve as another meal. My guess is, it was lost in the back of the fridge and became … not suitable for human consumption. I guess it also wasn’t suitable for toilet consumption. 🙂

  9. LMBO! Leave your poor wife alone. Those yellow pylons are invisible…..I myself have replaced a bumper twice on my H2 backing into them….blind spot:-)

  10. Oh fergodsake! Insurance adjusters always say it’s your fault – what, you think they want to pay you money? As for the pork roast, okay I may not have tried that one but I use the freezer for anything iffy. My husband always complains about putting garbage in the freezer. “What? Garbage – you just ate that a couple nights ago! You calling my food garbage?” Got to keep you guys on the ropes.
    Excellent looking chicken although I’d toss that red pepper looking thing on top down the toilet 🙂

  11. Well, now. With boy children, I have had to fish some pretty odd things out of the toilet–sunglasses, gun magazines, socks—–but I have never had to deal with a pork roast in the toilet. At least not one that hadn’t been eaten yet. That’s classic, and I’ll never have a story to beat it.

    General Tso is my kids favorite—so maybe he’ll get some now.

  12. Reblogged this on The Unorthodox Epicure.

  13. I never knew that dish had a name…I’ve been cooking it for years after a friend gave me a recipe, only with chilli and garlic separate.

  14. Long John Silvers to the in-laws?? What WERE YOU THINKING? What’s next? Purchasing an organ at the mall?

  15. A friend of mine always said that she would try to get a dent in her new car because then you quit treating it like a new car. She promptly ran into her garage. I’m not sure I follow her logic, but maybe it would help to apply the same principle? here. Hopefully the general took the sting away! It would pacify me anyway.

  16. I love recreating this kind of stuff at home.. mostly so I can eat it whenever I want, and in inhuman quantities. I like to add a little ginger too, for another kind of kick 🙂

  17. Excellent stuff Adam. The nuggets got me. The roast sent me over the edge.

  18. Totally love this post and remember it! Thanks for making me laugh yet more than once as I read it.,,I must try the Tao’s chicken…PFChangs is just too long of a drive!


  1. […] about 5-6 basic sauce ingredients. (It’s the same with Tex-Mex.) Sesame Chicken is much like General Tso’s Chicken, except it offers more sweet and little spice. You can use chicken breast or thigh meat in this […]

  2. […] time I see this clip, I order General Tso’s Chicken and fried rice, to-go. (Duck, after all, requires a 24-hour call […]

  3. […] Well, we know that its of Hunanese origin and that it’s occasionally called Dong’an Chicken. Dong’an just happens to be a county in Hunan, Republic of China. Did the dish originate there? Who knows. But it’s a lot more believable than the legend of General Tso. […]

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