General Tso probably never saw a single brussels sprout in his life, but this is the day when he finally meets them.
I lived a good 20 years before getting acquainted with General Tso. It happened at an unassuming Chinese restaurant in Davis with my college friends. I remember feeling embarrassed that my Chinese upbringing didn’t teach me about the ways of the General. But one bite into that fresh out the wok, deep fried chicken slathered in tangy sweet sauce, and all that shame melted away. I found my new Chinese restaurant addiction.
Even after all these years, I still don’t know who General Tso really is. Do you? There’s a documentary called The Search for General Tso that I’ve been aching to watch. It’s supposed to be a detective-style documentary, devoted to tracing the origins of this famed dish. I haven’t actually watched it yet, and I have no clue how to get my hands on a copy. (If you have any leads, do tell. Muffins will come your way.) Based on what I’ve read of the movie so far, the people behind the documentary do find a General Tso, but he wasn’t known for his cooking. That was the work of genius Chinese restaurant owners, who named the dish after him.
Speaking of which, what is with our obsession of associating fried chicken with military men? General Tso, Colonel Sanders, Popeyes. Is there something about fried chicken and machismo that I need to know about?
Now, I’m sure we all know someone who just hates brussels sprouts. We judge them for their ways, but we also want them to come over to the bright side. The next time you hear your friend complaining about how awful brussels sprouts are, here is the recipe to pull on them. This is hands down, one of the BEST batch of brussels sprouts I’ve ever had. You know all those sweet, tangy, spicy flavors you love in General Tso’s chicken? They’re all here, and then some. These brussels were so good, I licked the bowl after I was done! See for yourself.
General Tso’s Brussels Sprouts
- 1 1/2 pounds (675g) brussels sprouts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari, or soy sauce if not gluten free
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine, can substitute with mirin or a white cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, about a 1/2-inch piece of ginger
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how much heat you want
- sliced scallions, dark parts only
- sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- ROAST BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Trim the bottoms of the brussels sprouts and chop them in half. Toss them with the olive oil and sprinkle with a small pinch of salt. Spread brussels sprouts onto the lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leaves have browned.
- PREPARE SAUCE: In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, shaoxing wine, vinegar, honey and sesame oil together. In another small bowl, mix the water and cornstarch together until the cornstarch is well dissolved. If you accidentally mixed the cornstarch with the soy sauce mixture, don’t worry, just stir until it’s well incorporated.
- Heat the canola in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the soy sauce mixture, then add the cornstarch mixture and the red chili flakes. Bring the sauce to boil and let it simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- MIX BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SAUCE: When the brussels sprouts are done, pour them into a large bowl. Pour about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sauce onto the brussels sprouts and stir. Feel free to add more sauce if you like. If you prepared the sauce ahead of time, and it’s very thick, just warm it up a little again before stirring it with the brussels sprouts.
- Sprinkle sliced scallions and sesame seeds to garnish.
- Shaoxing wine is one of those ingredients that always pop up in Chinese recipes. They give the sauce more depth. But if you don’t have any available, use another type of cooking wine or add more water.
Looking for more brussels sprouts recipes?