The day of the gen­er­als

A fa­mous Chi­nese chef who cel­e­brated Gen. Tso dies in Taipei at 98

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

The day of the gen­er­als has dawned bright and clear upon us, at least in Wash­ing­ton. Don­ald Trump, who was ed­u­cated early at a ju­nior mil­i­tary academy, ob­vi­ously ap­pre­ci­ates of­fi­cers with lots of gold braid on their chests and sleeves. He has put sev­eral gen­er­als in his Cabi­net and in his in­ner cir­cle, in­clud­ing even an at­tor­ney gen­eral.

He might then tip his cap (with­out the scram­bled eggs on the bill) to the chef who in­vented Gen­eral Tso’s chicken, if not the gen­eral him­self. Peng Chang-kuei, who fled main­land China with the Kuom­intang when the Com­mu­nists took over in 1949 to cook for Chiang Kai-shek, died last week in Taipei at age 98.

Mr. Peng in­tro­duced the sweet, sticky, spicy dish to New York four decades ago at his restau­rant near the United Na­tions on Man­hat­tan’s East Side, and it quickly be­came a fa­vorite of the likes of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and other diplo­mats and high govern­ment of­fi­cials. He had first made it as a wel­come dish for the com­man­der of the U.S. 7th Fleet af­ter the dash to Tai­wan, and named it for an ac­tual 19th-cen­tury war­lord from Mr. Peng’s na­tive Hunan Prov­ince.

So there re­ally was a flesh-and-blood Gen. Tso, though he never supped on the dish named for him and if he had he prob­a­bly wouldn’t have liked it. Chi­nese taste does not run to lots of sugar, but the Amer­i­can taste does, and Mr. Peng al­tered the dish to suit the cus­tomers in New York. He later op­er­ated sev­eral res­tau­rants in Tai­wan.

The in­gre­di­ents are sim­ple: chicken, soy sauce, rice wine, rice-wine vine­gar, corn­starch, dried red chili pep­pers (whole), gar­lic, and of course, sugar. Lots of sugar.

There’s not unan­i­mous agree­ment that Chef Peng in­vented the dish. Another chef in New York, one T.T. Wang, cooked a sim­i­lar dish in 1972 and called it “Gen­eral Ching’s chicken.” But it was ap­par­ently cooked in a dif­fer­ent way, with more soy sauce, not so much sugar, and the chicken cooked in its skin. Gen. Tso’s Chicken is not for the faint of heart, or the faint of ar­ter­ies. A typ­i­cal serv­ing, avail­able now in hun­dreds of Chi­nese res­tau­rants across the fruited plain, typ­i­cally runs to 1,300 calo­ries, 11 grams of sat­u­rated fat and 3,200 mil­ligrams of sodium (salt). But nearly ev­ery­one agrees it’s a very tasty in­dul­gence.

Gen. Tso’s Chicken is even served at the U.S. Naval Academy at An­napo­lis, where it is called “Ad­mi­ral Tso’s Chicken.” There’s no ev­i­dence that Gen. Tso ever com­manded so much as a plain-pine row­boat, but a war­lord cel­e­brated even in ab­sen­tia could call him­self, sweet or not, any­thing he wants.

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