Uncovering the Origins of General Tso’s Chicken: From Hunan to New York City


When it comes to Chinese cuisine, few dishes are as well-known and beloved as General Tso’s chicken. This dish, which is said to have originated in the Hunan province of China, has become a staple in Chinese-American restaurants across the United States. But what is the true story behind the origins of this dish? In this article, we will delve into the history of General Tso’s chicken and trace its journey from Hunan to New York City.

The Origins of General Tso’s Chicken in Hunan

General Tso’s chicken is said to have originated in the Hunan province of China. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, a 19th-century military leader who was born in the Hunan province. However, there is no evidence to suggest that General Tso ever ate or even knew of the dish that now bears his name.

The dish itself is a combination of deep-fried chicken chunks that are coated in a sweet and spicy sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and chili peppers. The dish is often served with steamed white rice and garnished with broccoli.

The Journey to America

The dish first made its way to the United States in the early 20th century with the arrival of Chinese immigrants. Chinese-American restaurants began popping up in cities across the country, and General Tso’s chicken quickly became a popular menu item.

The dish was first introduced to New York City in the 1960s by Chef Peng Chang-kuei. Chef Peng had trained in Hunan cuisine and brought the dish with him when he immigrated to the United States. He opened a restaurant in New York City’s Chinatown and began serving the dish to his customers.

The Evolution of General Tso’s Chicken in America

As the dish gained popularity in the United States, it began to evolve. Americanized versions of the dish often featured sweeter sauces and larger portions than the original Hunan recipe. Additionally, some restaurants began serving the dish with a breaded and deep-fried coating, a departure from the traditional method of stir-frying.

Despite these changes, General Tso’s chicken remains a beloved dish in Chinese-American cuisine and can be found on the menu of Chinese restaurants across the country.


General Tso’s chicken has come a long way from its origins in the Hunan province of China. Today, it is a beloved dish in Chinese-American cuisine, enjoyed by people of all backgrounds. It’s unique sweet and spicy taste, and its crispy chicken makes it an all-time favourite.


As you can see from the diagram, the dish originated in Hunan and then immigrated to the United States, where it evolved into the Americanized version that we know and love today.

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