By Elaine Dunn

Quick, which general from Hunan Province, China, is better known than Mao Zedong in the U.S. and not because of his role on the battlefield?  Answer: General Tso.  

Walk into any of the approximately 50,000 U.S.-based Chinese restaurants or Asian buffets and you’ll come across a dish called General Tso’s chicken (左公雞).  This sweet, slightly spicy, deep-fried chicken nugget dish is one of the most ubiquitous – and popular – dishes in America.  So was this chicken dish really a favourite of General Tso?  

Who is General Tso?

By Greg Hugh -

As North Americans prepare to celebrate our traditional Thanksgiving feast with family and friends with a large roasted turkey as the centerpiece of the meal, it should be noted that this is not a holiday typically observed within China.  The obvious reason is the origins of Thanksgiving when, in the autumn of 1621, English colonists in America whom we call Pilgrims, celebrated days of thanksgiving for their first successful harvest.  Also, another reason could be attributed to the fact that the typical kitchen in China does not have an oven, let alone one large enough to roast an average 18-lb. turkey!

In lieu of what Benjamin Franklin had lobbied to be the national bird of the U.S.A., China has its own famous fowl, the Peking duck.  It is one of the most famous dishes of Beijing cuisine.  It was originally prepared for the imperial families of China, with a history of more than 400 years.  In its classic form, the dish calls for a specific breed of duck, the Imperial Peking, that is force-fed and housed in a small cage so that inactivity will ensure tender meat.  The neck and head are left intact as the bird is killed (at about six weeks old) and dressed, and after the entrails are removed, the lower opening is sewn shut. Air is forced between the skin and flesh to puff out the skin so that the fat will be rendered out during roasting and the skin, the choicest part of the dish, will be very crisp.  The inflated bird is coated with a sweet solution, hung up to dry, then suspended and roasted in a traditional cylindrical clay oven.

By Elaine Dunn

Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province in southwestern China, is not only famous for its beautiful landscape but also its delicately made, hot and numbing cuisine, a legacy of its Miao residents (苗族), one of the 55 officially recognized minority tribes in China.  Yes, numbing.  The main ingredients of Guiyang cuisine are red hot peppers and dried chili powder, believed to be ideal for the cold, wet weather in winter.

One just cannot visit Guiyang without trying its famous fish in sour soup!  This delectable soup is so common and in high demand that it can be had from street stalls.  It is THE traditional Maio soup and each Miao family has its own special recipe!  But all comes in a large pot and rumour is that Miao girls who don’t know how to make it won’t be able to find a husband.

The story behind the soup is that there once was a pretty brew master in the Miaoling Mountains whose wine was sweet as honey and clear as  spring water.  She had many suitors and she used to sing, “with love, water can become sweet wine; without love, sweet wine will turn sour.”  If she didn’t like her suitors, she would serve them sour wine.

The soup can come in a red or white soup base.  The red base is from fermented wild tomatoes and the white, fermented rice. The fish is boiled in the soup base with garlic, ginger, salt, chili, wine and special fragrant spices.  Tofu and vegetables are usually added to the pot just before serving.

Aside from the fish in sour soup, Guiyang is also known for:

A form of Guizhou tapas!  Soft tofu are shaped into balls and deep fried to golden color. They are crispy on the outside, but tender inside. They are eaten with a sour dipping sauce.



Sliced vegetables in rice wrappers 
Think vegetable spring rolls. Fresh seasonal vegetables such as bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots and deep-fried beans are placed in rice wrappers, eaten with a sour (what else!) and chili sauce.   


Chopped squid is skewered and grilled on a metal plate containing an enormous amount of sizzling chili sauce. These are served hot from street carts.


Mooncakes: a Mid-autumn Festival tradition

By Shilyn Chang, staff writer

Web Food MooncakeGiftBoxes r72There are few things more looked forward to in Chinese holidays than the delicious treats that pop up everywhere as the festivities draw near. In addition to being incredibly appetizing, these specialty dishes remind partakers of the rich history and tradition that surround them. Being part of a culture that is widely known to be in love with food and dining, the Chinese people have come up with tales about their beloved foods, which have been passed on for generations, as if these dishes were heroes of Chinese mythology. One of the most epic of these stories belongs to the mooncake — a widely recognized Chinese treat, yet surprisingly ...

By Wei Meiqing

The CCTV food documentary series “A Bite of China” so titillated Chinese diners’ taste buds that its ratings soared way above those of established late night drama series and movies. Images of mouthwatering dishes from around China and tantalizing descriptions of their ingredients have made this seven-part series a tasty topic for gourmands on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), one of whom commented, “The sight of these delicacies made me so hungry I was tempted to lick the screen.”

Terms Of Use

Terms of Use All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, contact [email protected] with subject line “Permission request.”


CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.