The Search for General Tso (2014)
January 18, 2015 7:46 PM - Subscribe

Who was General Tso, and why are we eating his chicken? This feature documentary explores the origins and ubiquity of Chinese-American food through the story of an iconic sweet and spicy chicken dish.

Also discussed in the documentary are aspects of Chinese immigration, the pressures of surviving in the US, social perceptions of Chinese food (as opposed to, for instance, French food), and the thoughts and feelings that Chinese-American and Taiwanese restaurant owners have towards having dishes like Chop Suey and Cashew Chicken on the menu.
posted by gemutlichkeit (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The movie claims that Chicken McNuggets were derived from it.
posted by brujita at 1:11 AM on January 19, 2015

I loved this documentary! I was surprised they could actually trace General Tso's chicken to its originator. I never would have thought that possible!

of course, the film also made my husband and I crave General Tso's chicken something fierce, resulting in us ordering delivery and eating way too much of the greasy sugar chicken the local Chinese place serves... so bad, so good.

The movie is right, Chinese food has become comfort food for Americans... But what's interesting, it's a comfort food most Americans don't know how to make for themselves. It's a comfort food only available through restaurants. I think that's an interesting fact about American society.

Now what I really want to try is the original recipe for General Tso's. The one that isn't so sweet and has more heat. It sounds so good.
posted by meese at 7:10 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

.....but one of the Roadfood books claims that a professor Robert Baker invented chicken nuggets at Cornell.
posted by brujita at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2015

I was also really hungry for Chinese food after this. And I'm vegetarian. I don't like tofu, but maybe sometime I will find General Tso's Tempeh in some wonderful place.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:29 PM on January 19, 2015

Where did you watch this? Netflix/Hulu/theatre?
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on January 20, 2015

(I'm quite new to Fanfare so if this is listed somewhere, my apologies, I couldn't find it.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on January 20, 2015

I rented it through Amazon Instant Video.
posted by meese at 1:56 PM on January 20, 2015

It is also available on iTunes and is being screened at some independent theaters.

I thought that the discussion on the general perception different types of "ethnic" foods in America was interesting: Chinese(-American) food (perhaps not unlike Mexican-American food) is generally thought of as cheap and indirectly communicates the idea that "[Chinese immigrant] labor is worth nothing"; French-American food, on the other hand, is thought of as high-class. This is why so many Chinese immigrants end up running sushi restaurants-- "Japanese Food" is not seen as "cheap."
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2015

It's playing at the IFC in NY.
posted by brujita at 9:15 PM on January 20, 2015

I saw this at the Seattle International Film Festival last year. My favorite part was when the author went to the town in China that the real General Tso came from and started asking people about General Tso's chicken, and no one knew what she was talking about.

I also liked the person who collected all of the vintage Chinese restaurant menus.

And hearing all of the different pronunciations of "Tso".
posted by matildaben at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2015

As of today this movie is on Netflix. It's great.
posted by Anonymous at 1:09 AM on August 2, 2015

Yes! And I did finally get to watch it! I would love to get to look through that guy's collection of menus.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2015

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