General Tso: The story behind the dish

by Mark Burger

Most Americans know General Tso only by the popular dish bearing his name, which can be found (and fed upon) at any number of Chinese restaurants – of which, we all know, there are thousands.

With The Search for General Tso, documentary filmmaker Ian Cheney takes an entertaining and enlightening look at the man behind the meal, while also offering a little celebration of Chinese and American cultures and how the twain have intersected.

As every Chinese restaurant seems to boast various recipes for General Tso’s chicken, so too are there different opinions about who the real General Tso was, though a jaunt to China squares up some of the historical facts: Tso was indeed a military general (of high regard), and in the Hunan Province he is honored with a school, a square and even a liquor named in his honor.

The various scenes of Chinese food being prepared will undoubtedly have some moviegoers savoring the possibility of take-out, and the film’s trim, expedient pace (under 80 minutes) is a most agreeable diversion “” and who knew fortune cookies are purely an American invention? In China, one of General Tso’s descendants examines one and asks, “Is it edible?” But that’s a discussion for another documentary.

The Search for General Tso opens Friday !

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