Bringing home take out

General Tso's Chicken by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Even though EYB members love cooking at home, we occasionally (or perhaps more than occasionally) crave take out. Frequently that means Chinese food, and in particular, the kind of crispy, sweet, and spicy dishes typified by General Tso’s chicken. But sometimes we don’t want take out because we don’t want to go out (is spring ever coming to the upper U.S.?) or because we don’t have a good take out joint close to us. Being intrepid cooks, we then attempt to make our favorite take out at home, but it can be difficult to recreate those dishes. Lucky for us, J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats comes to our rescue with the latest installment of The Food Lab, where he tackles General Tso’s chicken.

Besides giving us a great history lesson on the dish itself – its namesake general probably never tasted the dish, among other tidbits – Kenji provides us with the science behind making a crunchy coated chicken that doesn’t get leathery yet holds up to the sweet and tangy sauce. (If you aren’t up to the task of breading your own chicken, you can always try Kenji’s shortcut of using Popeye’s chicken nuggets.) As a bonus, in the comments section he hints that he’s working on a few other favorites from the Chinese take out menu – orange chicken and sesame chicken in particular.

Until then, the EYB library offers other options for Chinese take out at home. You can make take-out style sesame noodles, chow mein, Kung Pao chicken, fried rice, or mu shu pork. Also, you should definitely make your own fortune cookies to end the meal. 

Do you make “take out” at home? What’s your favorite?  

Photo courtesy J. Kenji López-Alt 

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  • Jane  on  April 16, 2014

    When my kids lived at home they loved the burritos from Boloco (I think that may just be a local chain – it stands for Boston Local so it probably is). So I would recreate them at home with each of them choosing the fillings they wanted – definitely one of the more peaceful dinner times.

  • Rinshin  on  April 16, 2014

    I heard about this dish but I'm not sure this food is found in our area of California?? Never had it. Around here kung pao is one of the more common lunch time items for under $10 with fried rice and usually not so good spring rolls '-(

  • gunung  on  April 17, 2014

    What I want is a recipe for dahl that tastes like the one from my Indian take-away… I can't even get mine to look the same!

  • ellabee  on  April 17, 2014

    One of my ambitions is to recreate the excellent samosas that were sold by a street vendor in DC in the 1970s. But I think it's going to be a lot more work than going into town to pick up takeout Gen. Tso's would be…

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