The top General Tao chicken in Toronto still can't seem to agree on what it wants to be called. (General Tao? General Tso?) Whatever you call it, few will disagree that this dish of uncertain origin is a great panacea for those craving a tang of sweet and spicy (and often greasy) Chinese food. It may be unhealthy, inauthentic, and unappreciated by connoisseurs, but for my money, there's no dish that offers as awesome a pick-me-up as a plate of the General's chicken.
Here are my picks for the top 10 General Tao chicken in Toronto.
Not Just Noodles
It's funny how often Not Just Noodles, a grimy and sad-looking corner restaurant, shows up on my lists. Their General Tao chicken, at around $10, is supremely satisfying. It can sometimes be a little batter-heavy, but that's part of the appeal. It's a bit sweeter than several of the other places on this list, and is just the right dish when you're craving greasy, steaming Chinese food in the middle of your cold day. Service is pretty fast, too!
For a psychedelically confusing yet delicious experience, look no further than Peking Man. This 70s-style restaurant is well-known for its Peking duck, but I can vouch for its General Tao chicken. At around $12, it's not exactly cheap (especially because you're not exactly eating in a fancy place) and the portion is a bit on the small side - but that sauce is god-dang delicious. The sauce has just enough kick, and the meat is always tender.
Also a long-time favourite of many (including my wife), Hong Shing's General Tao is sure to please. At times, they use less sauce than many of their downtown counterparts, but the savoury-sweet glaze is still delicious. Also, you can get it for $6.50 as part of their lunch special, which is outstanding value (though the portions are a bit smaller than many other downtown spots). Complement your meal with some of their spicy fried bean curd and sweet and sour pork. It's terrible for your arteries, but wonderful for your heart.
Lots of Chinese families go to the Asian Legend chain for meals, so that's gotta mean the General Tao here is more authentic than others, right? Uh, not really. But who cares when you're scooping mountains of sticky-sauced chicken into your bed of rice, complete with sesame seeds on top? The chicken here is more pronounced, and a little light on the batter, so those looking for a less "junky" version of this dish will feel right at home.
Taste of China
The chicken pieces here are covered in a batter that feels crispier than most of the others on the list, while still having that distinctive sweet-and-spicy tasting sauce. It's also a late-night favourite with many (the general is quite partial to after-hours comestibles, it seems), and therefore, another great place for your post-clubbing activities.
This restaurant is pretty much a staple for the late-dining crowd in Toronto, so it stands to reason that its General Tao would be one of the best in town. And, put simply, it is, with its glistening sweet-spicy sauce and large chunks of vegetables that complement the juicy chicken. Downing spoonfuls of these with your bed of steamed rice at 2am on a weekend night? Hangover helper.
Despite its claims to be a Szechuan-Hunan restaurant, this cute-looking restaurant (a staple for many office workers) is really an Indian Chinese (Hakka)-inspired spot. True to that cuisine's form, expect bold flavours, thick sauces, and a crazy assault on your tastebuds. Their excellent take on General Tao ($11.95) is definitely one of the "heavier" ones on this list - eat it during lunchtime at your own risk.
New Ho King
Another place to get greasy, delicious, and dirt-cheap Chinese food at practically all hours of the night, New Ho King will fill your belly up with their large-sized, crudely-prepared, super-delicious General Tao. The service isn`t going to be great, and the atmosphere even less so, but if you ever want a bowl of breaded and sauced fowls at 4am, you can always find the General at the King.
No, General Tao isn't a Szechuan dish, and it's not really spicy here. But there's something to the sweet-and-savoury sauce piled on this dish here that keeps me coming back. Now, at over $14, it's rather pricey - but then again it is one of the nicer establishments on this list. They used to have a location downtown, but only the one in Vaughan Mills is now open.
Perfect Chinese Restaurant
Perfect's General Tao is one of the lighter-tasting dishes in this collection, so it's perfect (groan) for those who are looking for a version of this dish that doesn't completely assault your tastebuds. Pair it up with their fried tofu, and you've got a killer combination.
Did I miss any? Leave your picks for General Tao chicken in the comments.
Photo of Hong Shing by Jesse Milns.
by Darren "DKLo" Susilo via blogTO