General Chicken

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Jim Millward sent in this photograph of a sign at "one of those Korean-run lunch buffet deli places (this in Bethesda MD)":

We've had a lot of posts about chicken on Language Log, most notably and pertinently this one: "General Tso's chikin" (6/11/13).

I don't know about the general nature of the signage in that Korean buffet deli that Jim visited, but I'd guess that two of the reasons why this particular sign came out the way it did ("General Chicken") are that:

  1. the plethora of English names (Governor Tso's chicken, General Gau's chicken, General Tao's chicken, General Tsao's chicken, General Tong's chicken, General Tang's chicken, General Cho's chicken, General Chau's chicken, General Joe's Chicken, T.S.O. Chicken, General Ching's chicken, House Chicken, General's Chicken [from Wikipedia]) simply floored the owners
  2. being Koreans, none of the available transcriptions of the general's surname (Zuǒ ) seemed / sounded right to them, so they decided to forego it altogether

Getting the surname right doesn't really matter anyway, since it's not a traditional Chinese dish and it has nothing to do with the late Qing dynasty general.

No matter what you call it, though, if you like chicken the mere thought of this American Chinese dish will make your mouth water, as mine is right now.


  1. TJ said,

    August 8, 2015 @ 11:25 am

    but look at the picture — it's not General Tso's, it's just fried chicken… it's just boring, general chicken.

  2. Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 8, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

    Looks like generic chicken to me too.

  3. Ken said,

    August 8, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

    Maybe the next tray over has the specific chicken?

  4. AntC said,

    August 9, 2015 @ 12:36 am

    @TJ it's just fried chicken.

    Yes, in batter/breadcrumbs. Looks like the Colonel's chicken to me. Hopefully the Korean cuisine will have made it more tasty.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2015 @ 7:52 am

    I puzzled about that deep fried chicken in batter / breadcrumbs right under the sign a lot too. As AntC said, maybe that's the Colonel's chicken. It's possible that General [Tso's] Chicken is in the tray in front of it.

  6. Kenny Easwaran said,

    August 9, 2015 @ 6:24 pm

    There's a recent documentary (available on Netflix), "Searching for General Tso", about the origins of this dish, and the history of Chinese food in the United States. It gives some interesting insight into the history of economic ethnic migrations to small town America, but the first part of it is definitely misleading about what the producers discover by the end.

    Also, I have seen the dish rendered in some Chinese restaurants as "General's Chicken", which seems like what this Korean restaurant might have been aiming at.

  7. Nathan said,

    August 10, 2015 @ 1:54 pm

    "General Chicken" was exactly the name I first knew General Tso's Chicken under, from a buffet I went to circa 1991. I think it was in Tempe, Arizona.

  8. Amy Whitson said,

    August 10, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

    Here in Missouri, I think I've only ever seen it called "General Chicken." See for example Lucy's menu:

  9. R Steinmetz said,

    August 18, 2015 @ 10:11 am

    Recently in New Orleans a restaurant serving General Lee's Chicken changed the name, apparently because some people thought it was a reference to R. E. Lee, which it partly was. There is also a politically prominent Chinese family in the area named Lee. The family also operated a large Chinese restaurant called the House of Lee for many years.

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