I have always wanted to be more familiar with cooking authentic Chinese food, but I did not know where to start. The techniques, the wok, and the unfamiliar ingredients were just all too daunting for me.

Chinese food always seemed like a bit of a mystery to me. A mystery I LOVE, which meant ordering from our favorite local restaurant with great authentic food seemed like a much better idea than attempting and failing at home.

Then a few weeks ago I was presented with the opportunity to work with Kian Lam Kho’s Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees cookbook.

It is a cookbook, but I think cooking/cultural/history lesson is a more apt description. It is a fantastic introduction to authentic Chinese home cooking. Trust me when I say this book will do for Chinese cooking, what Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking did for French cooking.

Kho focuses on cooking techniques such as steaming, smoking, flash-poaching, red-cooking, and salt-baking. The book begins by offering the reader, and I do suggest you read from cover to cover, a foundation in setting up your Chinese kitchen.

Until last week I did not even own a wok, so if this complete newbie can do it, you can to!

The recipes vary from the exotic, like pig stomach soup and braised frog, to the recipes that have been made familiar thanks to your local take out menu, like General Tso’s Chicken – the recipe I’ve chosen to share with you.Now perhaps I was being a bad blogger, but I thought it was important to share with all of you my experience cooking this dish for the first time. It was also my first using my new wok!

As for investing in a wok, Kho provides a very detailed outline of which type of wok to buy and how to season it. Overall it was easy, but I will say watch the heat level when seasoning. I let my wok get too hot and had a small fire – which was quickly contained thanks to the Lovely Husband.

Working with the recipe for General Tso’s Chicken was a pleasure. Kho clearly lays out each step, with ample detail so you are never left wondering – “now what?”. In the kitchen I felt confident, even though I had not worked with some of the ingredients before.

The best compliment was from the Lovely Husband who said if he hadn’t help cook this, he would have asked if I had ordered a take away.

Looks pretty good right? Not bad for my first time cooking this recipe (and in new wok). As much as I’d like to take credit, there is no secret Chinese cooking skill, it is all thanks to Kho’s instruction in Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees cookbook. As I mentioned above the Lovely Husband and I cooked this together and he struggles with boiling water on a good day!

If you are like me, and have always been intrigued by authentic Chinese cooking at home, then you should running to your favorite book store to buy a copy… Or try your luck with my giveaway following the recipe!

General Tso's Chicken

This version of General Tso’s Chicken resembles the original created by Peng Chang-Kuei in Taiwan. Strictly speaking it is not a traditional Hunan dish, but the technique and flavors are inspired by the chef’s Hunan background. It is not as sweet as the standard American version, and is laced with lots of garlic. Recipe by Kian Lam Kho

Servings 3


  • 2 Tbs. Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 large egg white

  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ¾ cup chicken stock or water
  • ¼ cup Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 Tbs. Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbs. tapioca starch
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup tapioca starch
  • 3 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup dried red chiles
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced scallion greens


  • Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the chicken cubes and stir well. Let marinate for 20 minutes.
  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in another bowl and mix well
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until it is shimmering, about 375°F.
  • Put the tapioca starch in a large bowl and roll the marinated chicken cubes in the starch. Be sure to coat each piece generously.
  • Fry the chicken cubes in the hot oil in two batches until they are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain the chicken cubes and set them aside on a double layer of paper towels.
  • Remove all but 2 Tbs. of the vegetable oil from the wok. Add the garlic and ginger to the wok and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the chiles and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  • Stir the sauce mixture so the starch is blended completely and pour it into the wok. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  • Return the chicken to the wok and quickly toss the pieces in the sauce. Add the sesame oil and stir it into the chicken.
  • Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallion greens.

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating