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It’s been a rough week for food pioneers. First the creator of the Big Mac passed away, and now General Tso’s chicken inventor Peng Chang-kuei died at age 98, reports Taiwan News.
The sticky, spicy dish is widely credited to the chef, who was trained from age 13. Taiwan News reports, "After WWII, he was put in charge of running Nationalist government banquets, and in 1949 he fled to Taiwan after the Nationalist forces were defeated by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War."
The chef said in an interview that he created General Tso’s chicken in 1952 when he was cooking for U.S. Seventh Fleet commander Admiral Arthur W. Radford. Apparently, the dish was created to ensure his guests wouldn’t tire of his repertoire, and Peng named the dish on the fly, honoring famous Hunan military leader, General Tso.
It’s worth noting that in another interview, Peng Chang-kuei says he can’t remember exactly when he first cooked the iconic dish. In the same interview, he also says, "The original General Tso’s chicken was Hunanese in taste and made without sugar,[…] But when I began cooking for non-Hunanese people in the United States, I altered the recipe."
In 1973, Peng Chang-kuei opened Peng’s (the restaurant has since closed and the chef returned to Taipei in the late 1980s) in New York City and one of the first published references to the dish appears in 1977. New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton called General Tso’s chicken, " a stir‐fried masterpiece, sizzling hot both in flavor and temperature."
The beloved dish is the subject of a 2014 documentary that traces the roots and diaspora of General Tso’s chicken.
The dish is beloved worldwide and Twitter is mourning the death of this iconic chef.
The inventor of General Tso’s chicken died. 2016 can’t get worse.
— Shane Boyce (@getboyce) December 2, 2016
Peng Chang-kuei leaves behind a successful Hunan-style restaurant chain in Taiwan and a legion of people devoted to the recipe he made famous.
If you’ve never seen "The Search For General Tso" (available on Netflix) I recommend it. One amazing insight into Chinese-American history. https://t.co/msPl43QtUd
— Alexander Price (@aprice1828) December 2, 2016
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