General Tso’s chicken (sometimes Governor Tso’s chicken, General Tao’s chicken, General Tsao’s chicken, or General Tso Chicken) is a sweet and spicy, deep-fried chicken dish.
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.
Zuo Zongtang (Chinese: 左宗棠) (November 10, 1812 – September 5, 1885), spelled Tso Tsung-t’ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso in the West, was a Chinese statesman and military leader in the late Qing Dynasty.
He was born in Wenjialong, north of Changsha in Hunan province. He served in China’s northwestern regions, quelling the Dungan revolt and various other disturbances. He served with distinction during the Qing Empire’s civil war against the Taiping Rebellion.
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.