Most Chinese take out menus you’ll find in the United States will have a particular spicy, sticky, fried chicken dish named after famous military leader General Tso. It’s a popular mainstay at family style and food court eateries alike, but if you’re thinking it has deep roots in Chinese culinary history, think again. The dish only dates back to 1952 when Chef Peng Chang-kuei, a native of Changsha in China’s Hunan province who had fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War, created it for an American admiral after he’d exhausted most of his usual menu during the four-day visit.
The attribution of Peng’s famous dish to General Tso only came after the admiral asked what the dish was called. Likely inspired by the military man sitting in front of him, the chef answered “General Tso’s chicken,” thus forever naming the dish after a hero from his native Hunan.