Monday, August 15, 2005

What is General Tso's Chicken???

Having lived on the east coast for four years, I think I am allowed to be one of those annoying people who talk about how wonderful California is all the time (there are some who do this but have never set foot outside the state. These people are just obnoxious.) I won't go in depth, because that's about a novel's worth of stuff to say, but occasionally, I do get twinges of missing things you can only get on the east coast. Like pretty fall colors. Right now it is the middle of August and I walked to school in the freezing fog/rain. Eww. The other thing is General Tso's chicken.

Now, I don't know exactly who General Tso was or what his chicken dish is supposed to taste like, but I can tell you this - every time I've had it on the east coast it is damn frickin' good. Deep fried chicken cubes and broccoli, smothered in this wonderfully spicy but also sweet sauce. I've ordered it in fancy restaurants, from roach coaches, at 3am from the local takeout place, and it has never disappointed me.

Until I tried to find it in California. I've tried all sorts of imitations - some not spicy enough, most didn't have broccoli, and none of them had the right sauce. What is going on here??

Last night my family went to our favorite chinese restaurant in SF - Gourmet Carousel. We've been coming here since I was seven. We love it. It's good (if you know what to order) and cheap and hits the spot. I was in lab so I met them a little late - they had already ordered. No big deal, we usually get the same thing each time so I wasn't worried. Until my mom said "oh, and your brother wanted to try the general tso's chicken so we got that too." Whaaaa?? Usually my brother doesn't commit such huge errors in judgment, particularly when it comes to food. He must really be missing the east coast right now (he's an undergrad at Amherst.) "Idiot!" I said to him. "You know you can't order that anywhere but the east coast!"

And I was right. Even our beloved Gourmet Carousel wasn't up to the challenge. The texture of the chicken was okay but there was no broccoli. And even though there was a generous amount of dried chilies in the sauce, absolutely no heat whatsoever. A weird citrusy sweetness. Blech.

Does anybody know why we can't get east coast-style General Tso's chicken here? What's the deal?

I know I just dissed this dish, but that shouldn't deter you from eating at Gourmet Carousel. What to get:
*peking duck - wonderfully crispy skin and oily meat, comes with 12 steamed buns (not pancakes) and green onions for what my family calls "duckburgers." Only 16.95 (whole duck) and you don't have to preorder or anything.
*clams with black bean sauce, pan fried flounder, mixed seafood in a nest, baked crab with ginger and scallions
*beef chow fun, chinese tender greens beef, long bean beef
*gourmet chicken, crispy fried chicken, salt baked chicken
*mandarin spareribs, gourmet combination clay pot
*sauteed dry string bean, pea sprouts in garlic sauce

Do not get:
mongolian beef, mu shu anything, batter-fried dishes (although I think they may have changed their batter, the old stuff was horrible.)

Each meal comes with a free bowl of their house wintermelon soup. Yummy stuff!

Gourmet Carousel
1559 Franklin St (corner of Pine)
San Francisco, CA


Roger said...

Idiot! I think General Tso settled down somewhere on the east coast and only imparted his secret chicken dish to those cool enough to be living in the area. They say SF living is tough---now I know why.

Chris said...

Huge error in judgment? I'll tell you what a huge error in judgment was...your mom deciding to have children. Ooh snap.
Anywho, it tasted better this morning when I reheated it, so it ain't a complete loss.

fried beef sandwich said...

I've been wanting to go to Gourmet Carousel after my dad and grand-aunt heartily recommended it.

now, I know my Dad has a penchant for finding cheap restaurants, some of which are not that great... but I think this one sounds like it would be the exception.

By the way, i'm forwarding this to a fellow dschool student of mine, who's a total - no, CONSUMMATE foodie.

CONSUMMMATE foodie, yes he is.