I think I’d go into sensory overload if I ate Chinese takeout food now. Despite that fact, I still thought it would be fun to recreate General Tso’s chicken with healthier ingredients, and I do believe I’ve succeeded. Crispy, juicy, and bursting with unami flavor, this dish is a lot like the takeout original, only better. It’s also fairly easy to make, so if a sudden craving comes along, this can come together quickly to satisfy it.
Yield 4-6 servings
FOR THE BRINE:
4 cups of water
1 tablespoon of salt
1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
FOR THE MARINADE:
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon of coconut aminos (can be substituted with organic tamari)
1 tablespoon of mirin
1 cup of arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
Neutral oil, for frying (preferably coconut oil)
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 cup of chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1/4 cup of coconut aminos (can be substituted with organic tamari)
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of coconut nectar (or preferred liquid sweetener)
1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of mirin
1 tablespoon of tahini
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 heaping tablespoon of arrowroot powder
1 small dried red chili pepper
You’ll first need the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Normally, I prefer chicken thighs for their superior flavor and juiciness, but sometimes, life calls for white meat.
The trick to making the chicken moist in your final dish is to brine it–but not for too long, or you’ll go into sodium shock when you take a bite. I recommend placing the chicken breasts in 4 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 2-4 hours, which is just long enough to tenderize and season the meat but not long enough to make it a pure block of sodium chloride.
When the brining time has elapsed, remove the chicken breasts from their salty bath and pat them dry with paper towels. Cut each piece into 1-inch cubes and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg whites with 1 tablespoon of coconut aminos (or organic tamari, if you prefer) and 1 tablespoon of mirin.
Add the chicken pieces to the egg mixture, toss to coat, and let marinate for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix 1 cup of arrowroot powder with the baking soda in a large bowl. When the chicken is done marinating, transfer the pieces–1/4 of the chicken at a time–into the arrowroot mixture, tossing well to coat. Transfer the coated chicken to a plate, and repeat the same process with the remaining meat. If necessary, add more arrowroot powder.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat with enough oil to cover the bottom with about 1/2 inch of oil.
When the oil is shimmering, add in 1/4 of the chicken pieces, making sure to spread them out and not overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes, then flip over and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes longer.
Once done frying, transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels and blot them a bit to remove the excess oil.
Repeat the same with the remaining chicken, working in batches to give the chicken pieces enough space.
When all of the chicken is done cooking, make the sauce.
In the bowl of a blender, combine the chicken stock, 1/4 cup of coconut aminos (or organic tamari, if you prefer), rice vinegar, coconut nectar, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of mirin, tahini, garlic powder, ground ginger, sesame oil, 1 heaping tablespoon of arrowroot powder, and the red chili pepper. The sauce should be thin and clump-less after blending; make sure you taste it and adjust it for proper sweetness/saltiness/sourness.
Once you’ve made the sauce, transfer it to a small saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
After thickening the sauce, lightly grease a large wok and heat over medium, then add the chicken, followed by the sauce. Toss to coat the chicken completely in the sauce and serve immediately over rice (purple sticky rice is my favorite) or cauliflower rice.