Ever have one of those recipes that has a good foundation but just needs a little bit of tweaking? This one is it. I've tried this one out several times because it was always little things that didn't quite go right. The recipe originally came from allrecipes.com, and I think I'm finally at a point where I can blissfully stop meddling :-)
Enter problem #1 - The first time I made this I took the advice of a reviewer to replace the sun-dried chile peppers with 1 Tbsp. of dried red peppers. The result: A dish so hot that we almost couldn't eat it. Since then, I've tried it with much less dried red-pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon) and with the actual sun-dried chile peppers. Our favorite: The sun-dried chiles may be harder to find, but actually give the dish an appropriate level of heat.
My other issue with this recipe is that it calls for 1/2 cup of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. I am quite certain if an individual added this much cornstarch that the sauce would be so thick you'd never get it out of the pan. With that said, I've also played with the amount of cornstarch and 2 tsp. seems to be an appropriate starting point. My husband likes his sauce in Chinese dishes a little thicker, so if you tend the other way, start out with a little less. You can always add more.
My last major change was leaving off the breading. I almost never bread and fry the meat in our Chinese dishes. Even in restaurants, I prefer the non-breaded dishes. I'm just not a fan of the heavy, greasy feeling that it leaves in my stomach.
Moral of the story: small problems can definitely ruin a dish but they don't always necessitate scrapping a recipe. After all the changes, this is actually one of our favorite Chinese dishes. Try it out. Just take my word for it that you don't need a full Tablespoon of dried red pepper :-)
General Tsao's Chicken
Adapted drastically from allrecipies.com
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. water
1-1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. warm chicken broth
2 c. chopped green onions
16 chile peppers, sun-dried or 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper
In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 c. water. Mix thoroughly. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, and chicken broth. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir-fry chicken until cooked through. Remove chicken and keep warm.
Add scallions and dried chile peppers to the wok and stir-fry briefly. Add sauce mixture to the wok. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken. If a thicker sauce is desired, mix a little bit of cornstarch in some water before adding to the sauce. When sauce is of the desired consistency, add the chicken and cook until warmed through. Serve over brown rice.