Fried Chicken > Hot braised chicken vs general tso

Hot Braised Chicken vs General Tso’s Chicken: Key Differences!

General Tso’s chicken is one of the most popular Chinese chicken dishes in the United States. With its crispy battered chicken, sweet and spicy sauce, and slight heat, it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite on Chinese restaurant menus.

But General Tso’s isn’t the only spicy Chinese chicken out there. Hot braised chicken and other dishes like Imperial chicken also offer a tongue-tingling experience. So what’s the difference between these spicy chicken dishes?

What is the difference between General Tso Chicken and hot and spicy chicken?

While both are spicy, hot and spicy chicken tends to use more potent chili peppers and less sugar, making it very aggressively spicy. General Tso’s has a balanced sweet, savory, and spicy flavor. The spiciness is milder with more noticeable ginger and garlic notes. Hot and spicy chicken also lacks the signature thick, sticky sauce coating the chicken.

Key Differences Between General Tso’s and Hot Braised Chicken

While both dishes offer some heat, there are a few key differences:

    • Cooking method: General Tso’s chicken is fried, whereas hot braised chicken is simmered in broth. This gives it a softer, stew-like texture.
    • Spice level: Hot braised chicken typically has more potent spices like Sichuan peppercorns, resulting in a numbing “ma la” sensation. General Tso’s is more mildly spicy.
    • Sauce: General Tso’s sauce is thick and glossy with a sweet, tangy flavor. Hot braised chicken has a thinner, savory sauce seasoned with soy sauce, rice wine, and aromatic spices.
    • Vegetables: General Tso’s chicken is usually served on its own. Hot braised chicken is cooked with vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, and bamboo shoots.

Related post: Junior chicken vs mcchicken

Other Spicy Chinese Chicken Dishes Worth Trying

Beyond hot braised chicken, other chili pepper-packed Chinese chicken dishes you may encounter include:

    • Kung Pao Chicken: Similar to General Tso’s but with peanuts and fresh green onions. It also has a strong kick.
    • Imperial Chicken: A sweet, gingery chicken dish with a mild spicy kick.
    • Governor’s Chicken: Features chicken bites swimming in a pool of delicious garlic-black bean sauce. Moderately spicy.
    • Empress Chicken: A Szechuan dish made extra hot with dried chilies and numbing Sichuan peppercorns.

Is General Tso’s Chicken Considered Spicy?

Compared to authentic Szechuan fare, General Tso’s chicken is relatively mild. But the sweet sauce does contain chili peppers and ginger, giving it a noticeable amount of heat. Most restaurants prepare their General Tso’s chicken to be mildly spicy, catering to American palates. But you can always ask for it to be made extra spicy if you want an extra kick.

The Difference Between Types of General Tso’s Chicken

Not all General Tso’s chicken is the same. Authentic versions made in Hunan province contain more spice and less sugar for a true mouth-numbing “ma la” experience. Chinese-American takeout General Tso’s tones down the spice and adds more sugar to appeal to American tastes. The sauce also becomes thicker and stickier.

Imperial Chicken vs General Tso’s Chicken

While both are breaded and fried, Imperial chicken has a sweeter, gingery flavor compared to the more savory and spicy General Tso’s. The sauce for Imperial chicken uses honey or brown sugar with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and ginger.

It’s moderately thick and usually a light golden brown color. The taste is predominantly sweet and gingery with just a little heat. General Tso’s has more umami flavor from soy sauce and garlic, with a thicker, red-tinted sauce and a bolder spicy kick from chili peppers.

Emperor’s Chicken vs General Tso’s Chicken

Emperor’s chicken features chicken pieces marinated in soy sauce, rice wine and aromatic spices then fried. It’s sauced with a ginger-scented stir fry of mushrooms, snow peas and bell peppers.

The sauce is light, gravy-like and savory, flavored with oyster sauce and sesame oil. General Tso’s chicken is fried plain, then sauced with a thicker, clingier and sweeter red sauce with potent ginger and chili heat. Emperor’s chicken is more akin to a vegetable and chicken stir fry, while General Tso’s is all about the chili-laced sauce coating the crispy chicken.

Empress Chicken vs Orange Chicken

While both are crispy fried chicken in a sweet sauce, Empress chicken uses a spicy, numbing Szechuan peppercorn sauce. It contains dried red chilies and Szechuan peppercorns which create a signature mouths-numbing spiciness.

Orange chicken features chicken bits fried in a light tempura batter with a mild, tangy and sweet orange sauce made with orange juice, vinegar, ginger and chili paste. Orange chicken is mildly spicy at most, while Empress chicken brings serious heat.

Empress Chicken vs Sesame Chicken

Sesame chicken is made by frying chicken in a light batter then saucing it with a thick, sweet sauce containing honey, soy sauce and sesame seeds. The flavor is predominantly sweet, with no spice.

Empress chicken uses Szechuan peppercorns and dried chilies to create a very spicy, mouth-numbing sauce that coats the fried chicken. While sesame chicken is a sweeter, milder take, Empress chicken is fiery, spicy and intense.

Governor’s Chicken vs General Tso’s Chicken

Governor’s chicken consists of fried chicken pieces covered in a thin, savory sauce made with chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic and fermented black beans. It’s moderately spicy from ginger and chili.

General Tso’s has a thicker, stickier sweet and spicy sauce flavored with vinegar, sugar, soy, garlic and chili pepper. While both are savory and moderately spicy, Governor’s chicken has a thinner sauce and a more pronounced black bean garlic flavor compared to General Tso’s stronger ginger and chili taste.

What is the difference between General Tso and Szechuan chicken?

Szechuan chicken contains a lot more potent, tongue-numbing dried chilies and Szechuan peppercorns. The sauce is very spicy, oily, and savory, often containing preserved vegetables. General Tso’s chicken has a sweeter sauce and a milder spice level. While General Tso’s is certainly spicy, true Szechuan chicken is much more intensely fiery.

So in summary, General Tso’s strikes a balance between sweet, savory and spicy, with a mild-to-moderate spiciness in most versions. But other dishes can provide much more aggressive spice levels.

Who was General Tso?

General Tso was a Hunanese military strategist and statesman who lived in China during the Qing dynasty in the 1800s. Despite lending his name to the popular chicken dish, there is no evidence that General Tso actually invented or ate the dish himself.

The origin of General Tso’s chicken is fuzzy, but it likely emerged as a Chinese-American fusion dish created by chefs experimenting with adapting Hunanese flavors for American tastes. They chose the name General Tso to market the dish and give it an exotic appeal.

What’s in the sauce?

The signature sweet, savory, and spicy General Tso’s sauce typically contains:

    • Soy sauce – for savory umami flavor
    • Rice vinegar – adds mild tanginess
    • Garlic and ginger – essential aromatic ingredients
    • Chili peppers – brings the heat; can use dried chilies or chili paste
    • Brown sugar or honey – contributes sweetness to balance the spice
    • Cornstarch – thickens the sauce so it nicely coats the chicken
    • Chicken stock or broth – provides moisture and chicken flavor

The exact ratios and ingredients can vary between chefs and recipes. Some versions also include extras like sesame oil, hoisin sauce, or Chinese rice wine for more complexity.

What’s the best way to eat it?

General Tso’s chicken is best served freshly cooked and piping hot, right out of the takeout container. The crispy fried chicken coated in thick, glossy sauce is meant to be enjoyed right away before it gets soggy.

The sweet, savory, and spicy sauce flavor pairs perfectly with plain white steamed rice, which helps balance the sweetness. Some additional veggies like broccoli or snap peas make it a complete meal. Pro tip: pour a bit of the sauce over the rice to give it some extra flavor.

Can I make it at home?

You can absolutely make restaurant-quality General Tso’s at home with the right technique and ingredients! The keys are:

    • Velveting the chicken by marinating in egg white, cornstarch, and seasoning for tenderness
    • Double frying the chicken for maximum crispy texture
    • Using a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce properly
    • Balancing sweet, savory, spicy flavors in the sauce

As long as you nail the basic method and sauce recipe, you can adjust flavors to match your preferred spice level or customize it to make it your own.


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