Is this stuff available where you live? If so, you probably don’t give it much thought. I didn’t either. But as soon as Western “Chinese” food became inaccessible, I forgot about how I used to turn up my nose at its sugar content and inauthenticity. I just wanted some good old-fashioned General Tso’s.
As it turns out, it tastes much better if you make your own, and it’s not as bad for you. It’s still not going to win any nutrition awards, and I still get a bit of a sugar rush off it, but it’s MSG free and has no added salt (though it does have soy sauce), and if you don’t fry the meat, it’s fat free too.
In this post, we’ll make the sauce. I’ll use the sauce to make Sesame Chicken, General Tso’s delicious cousin, soon. The sauce can be used in either recipe, and you can keep it in the fridge for a while without worrying about it going bad.
It’s so easy, and tastes so much more delicious than the restaurant or bottled kind, you will kick yourself for not making your own. Try not to kick yourself too hard. That’s not nice.
Assemble your ingredients. There is nothing weird or hard to find on the list. The rice vinegar is ideal, but you can use any other mild vinegar if you don’t have any.
There are not really any steps to this recipe. You kind of just dump everything in a saucepan and boil it. And that’s kind of it. But, because this is a blog, we have to have content. So here we go.
Put the dark brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, red wine*, soy sauce, cornstarch, hot paprika, ground ginger, and garlic in the saucepan.
Stir it up a bit.
Put it on the stove, on medium heat. Stir it periodically. You want it to boil gently, and you don’t want it sticking to the bottom, so don’t ignore it too much. Try not to inhale the steam. Vinegar steam is painful.
After about 5 minutes or so, taste it. You shouldn’t be able to taste the vinegar and wine anymore. It should be thickening up nicely. I usually let it go around 8 minutes. If you want to use it as a dipping sauce, you will want to cook it longer to thicken it more; but for most applications, you want it to be about the consistency of a thick barbecue sauce.
And you’re done! You can store it in a glass jar in the fridge for a week or so. The vinegar will protect it from going bad right away.
*A hint about the red wine: we don’t use very much wine. I use it periodically (like once every two months) in cooking, usually no more than a quarter of a cup. We offer it to guests when they come over. There’s no way we could afford to open a bottle of wine every time we needed it, because we’d have no use for the rest of the bottle, so it would just go bad. Rather than mess with those fancy corks that supposedly keep wine from going bad, there’s a better and cheaper way. Box wine that has a spigot at the bottom (usually in a 5 L box) is in a bag that functions as a bladder, letting the wine out the bottom, and not letting any air in. Because no air gets in, the wine never goes bad and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I usually go through a 5 L box every four or five months, and I’ve never had it go bad on me. This way, I never feel guilty about using a tablespoon or two in a recipe. Box wine is very inexpensive, and it’s not necessarily “bad wine,” especially here in Greece. Many people are particular about their cooking wine, saying you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink – I don’t have a problem with that; we drink this wine too! For frugal cooks, this really is a life saver. I get 5 L for around 6.60 euros on sale. I stock up when they’re on sale and don’t worry about it the rest of the year. (If you’re a wine aficionado, this will not work for you, but most of us really aren’t, are we?)
General Tso’s Sauce
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp hot paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
1. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir.
2. Heat over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir periodically to prevent sticking. After about 8 minutes, or when sauce has thickened considerably, remove from heat.
3. Use in recipe, serve as dipping sauce, or refrigerate in a glass jar.
See the recipe that uses this sauce here: Sesame Chicken
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of the total recipe
0g dietary fiber
241mg sodium (10% DV)
144mg potassium (4% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following: