Japanese General Tso’s Chicken (at Wasabi)

General Tso’s Chicken (or some spelling variant thereof) has become so ubiquitous that most people who have dined in a Chinese restaurant have had it at one time or another. Surprisingly, though, even though the dish has been popular for a decade or so, it was only last year that I tried it for the first time. There are many different variations on the basic theme, of course, and one can almost so that no two representations are more than passingly similar. After my first try, I decided to order it in various locations and see if I could get a handle on the range of different preparations …

My first experience was in a fairly westernized Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Just recently though, I was down in Ottawa and I came across an appetizer version in a Japanese restaurant. It was an ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ Sushi place and it had a small section of ‘Chinese Food’ listed on its extensive menu.

Anyway, the result you see here was … well, interesting. Even in my limited experience with this dish, I can pretty much guess that experienced aficionados would probably say that, whatever this dish is, it is NOT General Tso’s chicken. There are no vegetables in the mix (although, to be fair, this was meant as an appetizer so ‘filler’ was not needed), but the sauce that covered the chicken was completely off base. The chicken itself was actually pretty good… it was only dusted with flour rather than being battered (which is a plus to mind), and it was fried to the point of being nicely crispy on the outside. As for the sauce?

Well, as far as I have been able to tell, General Tso’s Chicken is supposed to have a bit of a fiery bite to it. It is not a ‘hot’ dish, as such, but it should have a little chili somewhere in the mix to give it a little spark. Here, though, the spicy heat quotient was zero (zip, zilch, nada, nyet, niente… etc.). The actual result was much more like the sort of sweet and sour sauce poured over chicken balls in the lower end ‘Chinese’ restaurants. It was, to my mind, quite a bit like ketchup diluted with a little vinegar, and with extra sugar added. Not horribly bad, at all… just not right. I rather think the good General might be rolling over in his grave at the thought of this production in his name…


  1. My husband and I have better than average appreciation for both Japanese and Chinese both traditional and restaurant menus. I am still surprised Gen Tso is his go-to choice. He suggested that you carry around a small portion of Sirracha pepper sauce. Lol

    1. I still have to try it in more places than I have so far, but I am expecting others not to be quite so mild.

  2. Thanks for your experience. I have ordered this in *many* Chinese restaurants, and no two make it the same way. I’ve had it as small crunchy bits and soft larger pieces and everything in between. In some places, it has been hot enough to burn my mouth and had the hot peppers in it, and the seeds, and in some it has been mild. The most surprising thing I ever discovered was that there is no/never has been a General Tso!

  3. I am back in Ottawa this week … going to try another version either today or tomorrow:)

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