February 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
This is the first of a new series I’m calling The Inspector General, where I go in search of the best General Tso’s Chicken, and I’m starting with the first of 2 Chinese joints in the Indy area whose Tso’s I consider top of the class, 5-star Generals: Ming’s Wok in Carmel, IN. (The other is Niasa Pan-Asian Cafe in Fountain Square. Stay tuned.)
Since this is the first post, let’s get into some history a la Wikipedia:
General Tso’s chicken is a sweet and spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that is popularly served in North American Chinese restaurants. The dish was unknown in China and other lands home to the Chinese diaspora before it was introduced by chefs returning from the United States. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman, although this connection is tenuous. He is said to have enjoyed it, and perhaps helped create a dish, but there are no recorded recipes. The real roots of the dish lie in the post 1949 exodus of chefs to the United States. The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. […]
Traditionally, the dish is made with dark meat chicken such as legs or thighs; however, many higher-end Chinese restaurants use boneless skinless breast meat…Traditional basic ingredients include: Sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG. batter/breading: egg, cornstarch. dish: Broccoli, meat (cubed).
So what are we looking for here?
We’re looking for a good sweet/tangy balance with a bit of spice, and I personally like the broccoli garnish for a little bit of veggies. I like a Tso’s that doesn’t turn into a clump of gross in my stomach, that tastes fresh and bright and isn’t a syrupy mess of consistency.
As a baseline Tso’s, Ming’s Wok delivers exactly that, and matched with their pork fried rice, it’s an easy 5-star ringer. Snag the lunch combo for $4.95, or get the dinner combo with some crab rangoon if you’re feeling Carmel-rich.