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Monday, February 7, 2011

Trader Ming's General Tsao Stir Fry Sauce

There are nights, usually Fridays but not always, when Sandy and I simply look at each other because we're so hungry and feel like making next to no effort to get dinner made. For these times, there are four main options: a) popcorn b) freezer pizza c) pizza from the neighborhood shop, Eddie's Pizza Haus or d) China Lin delivery. A lot of those times, we choose China Lin. Popcorn isn't much of a dinner, we'd have to run out of the house for either pizza choice, and Chinese food is just good. I just love the idea of being able to make a phone call and have whatever kind of food delivered right to your door. It's not quite the food replicators from Star Trek, but, you know, it's about as close as we can get. It's always kinda awkward ordering from there, from having to repeat your order a couple times over the yelling lady taking it, to it being delivered half of the time by a ten year old kid. I'm always amazed that they always have it to us within twenty minutes, even though it takes half an hour to get to our place from anywhere because of all the stop signs in the neighborhood (if you're familiar with Morningside, you know exactly what I mean). Anyways, I almost always without fail order the General Tso's Chicken, just because it's so darn good. I've had one or two other things from there, and they seem a little sketchy, but the General Tso's always delivers.

Anyways, my sister got Sandy and I a Trader Joe's cookbook for Christmas this past year, and as we skimmed through it one night, we saw a recipe for General Tsao's Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Until this point, we were somehow completely ignorant of the fact that Trader Joe's Asian accomplice Trader Ming had some of the General's stir fry sauce, because I know we would have picked it up before if we were aware of its existence. This immediately became a must-buy for the next trip.

I tell you what: we had high hopes for it, and it did not disappoint one bit. The sauce itself is a good, rich, goopy concoction (think barbecue sauce for its composure) that had every bit of flavor that I have come to love and know from General Tso chicken. It starts with the sweet and tangy but a good level of spiciness kicks in to give it a good, full bodied taste. The one aspect of flavor that really stood out to me was a combination of garlic and red pepper that gave off a lot of heat and flavor without overpowering the rest. Fantastic stuff. We mixed it in with some chicken I pan-fried up then shredded, wrapped in some lettuce leaves, and served with rice. It was so good Sandy and I started pouring and mixing in with our rice, and before we knew it, we kicked the whole bottle. It was so good I couldn't help but scrape out what I could with my finger just to savor the flavor a little bit longer.

On our subsequent shopping visit, Sandy just picked it up and put it in the cart when I was probably sneaking as many free samples at the sample counter as I could, and didn't even know we got it until I began putting stuff away at home. As soon as I saw it grasped in my hand, my first thought was "Good call, wifey." Sure, it takes a little bit more effort to make something than to just call someone help to bring it right to you, but for the $3 (or cheaper) for the sauce that's right on par with the best that delivery can offer, it's worth it to spend the twenty minutes over a stove instead of stalking old high school friends on Facebook while waiting for Short Round to knock on your door. Because of this great discovery, I'd imagine we'll be ordering out less for Chinese food, especially since two dinners plus tip easily runs at least $20 if not more. Trader Ming, thank you for bringing this into our lives.

Sandy rates this stuff a strong and vibrant five. Her only complaint, as with anything truly good, was there wasn't more. I rate it almost as high, but can't quite give it a five for two reasons. First, I'm going to miss the free Tupperware that comes with delivery. Second, I've always seen it spelled as General Tso, this stuff is spelled as General Tsao, so I'm a little confused as to which one is actually correct (or if either one is, or if they both are ... I get confused easily). But I think despite these slight misgivings, I will enjoy it immensely, and I'm already looking to our next knockoff Chinese feast, so a four and a half rings true to me.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I need to try this. I usually make my own stir fry sauce from a combo of other TJ's sauces (chili sauce, hot mustard, soy sauce, yellow curry), but this could save me a lot of work (and money!).

  2. I finally tried this tonight. Good God, it's amazing.

    I just browned a pound of ground turkey and poured in a third of the bottle. I got some butter lettuce to be fancy but it was just as good with some leftover iceberg. Trader Joe's also sells an awesome, small sized bag of shredded carrots, so I threw a few of those on top of the meat and rice for an incredible P.F. Chang's rival at home. (The rest of the carrots are a great addition to their Very American Salad to make it Extremely American.)

    I didn't really get much spice from it - it wasn't spicy at all to my 7 year old - but sriracha made a quick correction for me.

    I also cooked up some TJ's pork gyoza (potstickers) which made a great side served with TJ's Sweet Chili Sauce.

    It's ridiculous how many thing at Trader Joe's have been my new favorite thing. Here's another.

  3. Thanks for reviewing! I'm going to pick some up today. I like making sauce on occasion, but it's also fun to try the different pre-made ones.


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