I hope this isn’t like debunking the myth of Santa Claus for ruining Christmas for some sad child, but I have bad news to break, and it’s about General Tso. Oh, no, he was a real person! It’s completely true that General Tso, otherwise known as Tso Tsung-t’ang, was a 19th-century general of the late Qing dynasty. Living on through epic tales of his prowess, crushing revolts, capturing rebels, and cultivating one of the most fearsome army forces in the world, his heroic might knew no equal. Lesser known are his efforts towards civil peace and stability through educated, prosperous citizens.
A complicated, stone-faced man, much remains unknown about the storied general, but one thing is for sure: General Tso had nothing to do with any sort of dish involving deep-fried chicken tossed in a tart-tangy-spicy-sweet brown sauce with broccoli. The eponymous leader never tasted the dish that keeps his name as part of the modern lexicon across the globe. For all we know, he didn’t even like broccoli – Because who’s really going to tell a war lord to eat his vegetables.
Sorry. The truth hurts.
Born in the good old US of A, General Tso’s chicken first appeared in the 1970, given the breath of the wok by a Taiwanese chef specializing in Hunan cuisine, no less. He was just a fan, a real history buff, I suppose, and also an excellent recipe developer. Riffs on this original formula proliferated faster than rabbits, coast to coast, introducing many American’s to their first taste of “Chinese” food.
So, my real point is this: Does knowing that an overweight bearded man won’t come slithering down the chimney at night to force coal into your stockings actually take the joy out of Christmas? Does learning that your favorite takeout might not be 100% “authentic” whatever that means, make it any less delicious?
Not a chance! Now, pass the plum sauce and wonton chips, please.
My take on General Tso’s is a departure from the typical composition. Replacing syrupy garlic sauce with a lighter, brighter soup broth spiked with vinegar and chilies, the results are richly invigorating well beyond greasy takeout. Crisp baked tofu perches at attention atop a coil of buckwheat noodles, tender and toothsome all at once.
One of two new vegan, gluten-free offerings from the JSL Foods line of Fortune Asian noodles, a package of Soba Buckwheat with Shoyu Flavor is the foundation of this unshakable recipe revamp. These new noodles can be found at Albertsons, Von’s, Lucky’s, Safeway, Carr’s, Dierbergs Markets and Cub Foods. Answering the call for their Fortune Asian Noodle Blogger Recipe Challenge, this fiery, bold, and somewhat sassy little beauty is my proud submission.
I’ve been burned out on contests lately, but I think that my General Tso, revived and injected with new life for more contemporary tastes, can take the heat. Go ahead and fight me for the title! Check out more inspiration from JSL Foods via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
Crispy Salt & Pepper Tofu:
- 1/2 Pound Extra Firm Tofu, Drained, Pressed for 30 Minutes, and Cut into 1-Inch Cubes
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground White Pepepr
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 3 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch
- Neutral Oil Spray
- 1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger, Minced
- 2 Cups Water
- 2 Tablespoons Chinkiang Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Shaoxing Wine or Dry Sherry
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 (4.98-Ounce) Package Fortune Soba Buckwheat Shoyu Flavor
- 4 - 6 Ounces Broccoli Rabe, Trimmed
- 1 Scallion, Thinly Sliced
- Fresh Chili Peppers, Chili Oil, or Hot Sauce to Taste (Optional)
- For the crispy tofu, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lining a baking sheet with a nonstick silicon mat or piece of parchment paper.
- Begin by combining the salt, both types of pepper, and tapioca starch in a medium bowl. Add the tofu and toss to throughly coat on all sides. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and lightly spritz with a neutral oil spray. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, lightly golden and crispy all over.
- Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, sauteing until aromatic. As soon as they begin to bown, immediately add the water to prevent anything from burning. Follow with the vinegar, wine, sugar, tomato paste, and pepper flakes, stirring well to combine. Add the shoyu seasoning packet from the noodles, mixing thoroughly to dissolve.
- Add the noodles and stir to gently break them apart. After about 1 minute, add the broccoli rabe. Cook until the vegetables are bright green and very lightly cooked through; about 2 - 3 minutes.
- Divide between two bowls and top with the crispy tofu, scallions, and any hot seasonings desired.
The tofu can also be prepared in an airfryer. Prepare as directed and bake at 370 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 626Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 856mgCarbohydrates: 71gFiber: 14gSugar: 18gProtein: 29g