China Catering Unlocks the Mystery Behind General Tso

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I love me some dim sum, and had every intention of checking out  the newish Bao Dim Sum House on Beverly yesterday for lunch. But naturally I ended up being drawn to the dingy little Chinese take out spot next door.  China Catering is not unlike most of the typical cheap takeout Chinese food places in L.A.  $6 lunch specials, assorted meins (lo, chow, etc.), and deep fried meats covered in a sticky sweet sauce that is supposed to resemble any one of a number of different citrus fruits.  Standard in pretty much every way- until I saw these words under the chicken section:

General Tso Chicken (New York Style or Chinese Style)…………………… $7.50

“Chinese style” General Tso’s Chicken? Who knew such a thing even existed! Now you have to understand I have an unhealthy obsession with general tso’s chicken.  And I don’t mean unhealthy in that cutesy “I’m a fat food blogger, and I love to eat pork belly!” kind of way.  I mean, unhealthy- it sent me to the hospital back in college- unhealthy obsession.  So… clearly I needed to try both versions of China Catering’s general tso’s (you know, for science.)

China Catering is likely a popular Chinese food delivery spot for people who live in the area around Beverly and Crescent Heights, but don’t let the fancy pants looking online website fool you.  This place is a complete dump.  It’s got three tables, but even those who show up planning to eat in probably end up muttering “to go” at the last second.  Despite the lack of decor the tables were all full (a good sign, right?), so I proceeded with Operation: General Takedown.

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The “New York Style” General Tso’s chicken was everything I have come to know and love about General Tso’s.  Chunks of chicken, battered and deep fried, and then covered in a sweet, spicy and sticky sauce.  It hit all of the marks that a good GTC should:

  1. There seemed like actual chicken meat in there
  2. It was definitely fried fresh, and came out super crispy
  3. The sauce was more sticky than gloopy, and coated the outside of the chicken in a perfect ratio

The flavor was a bit tangier than the General Tso’s I’m used to, and it wasn’t cooked with whole chilies, but it had a bit of heat, and the tang to sweetness ratio was decently balanced.  All in all a way better than average version of General Tso’s.    But what about this crazy “Chinese version”?   What is that all about…

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Talk about taking away everything that is great about General Tso’s!  The chicken isn’t fried, there are a ton of vegetables (but no broccoli), and it wasn’t as sweet as the original (but still a tad bit spicy).  Just a standard chicken stir fry dish.  I guess it makes sense in some ways, since real Chinese food does have way more vegetables than Americanized Chinese food, and is usually wok fried instead of deep fried and covered in a sickly sweet sauce).  It was tasty enough, but I wouldn’t mistake this for anything authentically Chinese.  Even so I wanted to check with my defacto Chinese food expert- Jennifer 8 Lee, author of the (amazing) book Fortune Cookie Chronicles.  She actually visited China and attempted to track down the origin of General Tso (the chicken and the man).   Apparently there is a Chinese version of General Tso’s (who knew!?) and it’s nothing like this dish.

Real Chinese style is seen above, made in Taiwan at Peng’s Agora Garden, owned by Chef Peng The man who invented the original General Tso’s chicken, giving joy to American mouths for decades. Not fried, not sweet, and it still has skin and bones.

Clearly I didn’t really expect to find “real” General Tso’s chicken for $7.50 at a take out place on Beverly Blvd. By this point you probably have realized that I really only used this whole thing as an excuse to order two plates of General Tso’s chicken for lunch. (Old habits die hard.) But I’m glad I did. China Catering is actually kind of awesome for a crappy Chinese place. Everything was made fresh, and it was some of the better cheap Americanized Chinese food I’ve had since moved to L.A. If I lived or worked in the area it would be my go to take out or delivery spot.

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Mongolian Beef Lunch Special

Lunch specials are mostly under $6 and come with a pretty decent fried rice or lo mein noodles (which are even better.) And their New York Style General Tso’s was good enough that I’d feel totally comfortable venturing into the lemon/honey/orange/sweet and sour chicken territory on the menu.

I’ll probably head back soon to try Bao Dim Sum House at least once. But considering the price, it will be hard to lure me away from China Catering permanently. I hope there’s a good hospital nearby.

THE +

  • Lunch specials are around $6 and come with rice and an egg roll
  • You can sub noodles for rice (awesome)
  • Everything is made to order, and comes out super fresh
  • The General Tso’s was super crispy and made from real pieces of chicken!

TH E – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • Better than average cheap Chinese food is still cheap Chinese food.  I’d rather pay a bit more and go to Bao or Ghengis Cohen
  • There’s only three small tables, so you’ll likely need to take your food to go (and you’ll probably want to)

China Catering, 8250 Beverly Boulevard (near Sweetzer), 323-655-2288

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