The St. Valentines Day Massacre (Chinese Style)

Monday 14/2/2005 - Valentines Day

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Diary and Notes

It pains me, as both a republican (not in the American sense of the word) and a socialist, to have to be cooking things named after despots, kings, dictators and murderers, but so many tasty things have been named after them, that it's hard not to. Take beef Wellington for example. I have no problem that Wellington helped to prevent the dictator Napoleon, from conquering all of Europe, but Wellington was still an absolute bastard in just about every way and the thought of beef Wellington being named after someone like him doesn't make me want to eat it (I will eat it though because it's very tasty). There are dishes named after famous battles (chicken marengo), to celebrate coronations (coronation chicken of course), roman leaders (ceaser salad, but that's really named after a casino) and diplomats (beef Stroganoff). I've never seen Pol-Pot's-hot-pot nor Goering's sausage but perhaps the recipes are out there, lost in the midsts of time and if I can't find them, maybe I should invent them.

If you hadn't guessed yet, today's dinner was named after a famous (Chinese) general - Zuo Zongtang from the 19th century. He, like most military men, earned his fame by murdering, killing and being generally unpleasant to people from outside his own borders (and to people inside his own borders if he was like any normal military man of the era). The spelling - Tsao - is more modern American and that's where the dish was no doubt invented. It's another one of those great American-Chinese food inventions, like chop suey, that everyone thinks is Chinese but was invented by the immigrant population to sell to gullible peolple as authentic food. Still, it is perhaps one of the greatest of Chinese restaurant dishes and although a little more complicated than just stir frying, is well worth having a go at.

For proper general Tsao's chicken you must use the brown meat, not breast. I had some thighs in the freezer and these were great. As I was out of chicken stock I poached the thighs gently to make a Chinese style spicy stock and used this for the sauce. All in all, quite sublime.


For a potted history of General Tsao see: Washington post

Cake Blog

A chocolate, cherry and mixed nut cookie. My flatmate Ben made these. Quite fantastic. I shall get him to send me the recipe and post it on a cookie site.


  • General Tsao's chicken
  • Stir fried vegetables in black bean sauce
  • Fied rice


  • Chicken: Chicken joints, garlic, ginger, chillis, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, five spice powder, white pepper, egg, cornflour, spring onions
  • Vegetables: Carrot, green pepper, courgette, celery, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, black bean paste, peanut oil, cornflour, stock (from poaching chicken), white pepper, soy sauce.


  • Poach the chicken: Take the skin off the chicken joints and place in a big poan. Add some water, soy sauce, some fresh giner, some fresh garlic, a few chillis, some five spice powder, some sugar and a little wine vinegar. Heat gently so as the water it just below simmering and leave to poach for two hours. Take the chicken out and let it cool then break into pieces (about 1cm cubed)
  • Fry the chicken: First make a batter - whisk an egg white with a little white pepper and cornflour. Add the chicken pieces and stir into the batter. Add a drop of peanut oil to prevent the chicken pieces sticking together. Then deep fry the chicken pieces until golden brown.
  • To finish: In a wok, fry a little sliced ginger and chilli in some peanut oil, add a ladle of stock and allow to bubble for a minute or two. Mix together some cornflour and water and add to the bubbling wok, stir to make a thick sauce. Add the chicken and mix until coat with sauce. Cover with chopped spring onions and serve.

  • Vegetables: Cut the vegeables into thin strips of equal sizes. Slice the garlic and ginver very thinly and fry in a little peanut oil. Add the vegetables and fry. Every now and again add a little of the spicy stock to prevent sticking and burning. Stir in a little black bean paste and some water/cornflour mix to make a glaze, add a little white pepper and soy sauce.