On the Trail of General Tso


He is arguably one of the most famous Chinese historical figures in the world. Outside of China, however, General Zuo Zongtang (A.K.A. General Tso) is known almost entirely by his namesake, a chicken dish as ubiquitous in America as it is unknown in China. With a recipe calling for sticky-sweet cholesterol bombs of fried chicken nuggets mixed with just a little chili pepper heat and a laughably inadequate amount of green vegetables, it’s little wonder the dish has found its way into American hearts and arteries.

But General Zuo was more than just a Chinese counterpart to Colonel Sanders, he was also one of the most fascinating officials of the Qing era. He was a late bloomer who failed following the traditional pathways to success but ultimately became one of the empire’s most famous and indispensable military leaders.