There’s no shortage of chicken-based Chinese-style dishes, especially when visiting a Chinese restaurant. And even though they have grand names such as Princess Chicken or General Tso’s Chicken, their flavors are usually similar. What’s the difference between the two?
The main difference between Princess Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken lies in how you cook the chicken. Princess Chicken uses cornstarch to brown the chicken, while General Tso calls for crispy, breaded chicken.
More differences between the two dishes are not as apparent, so let’s explore further to find out what they are.
We already know each dish uses chicken and cornstarch; instead, we want to pay attention to how each sauce is made.
Here are the ingredients for Princess Chicken sauce:
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sake or Mirin or Sherry
- Crushed Red Peppers
- Sichuan Peppercorns
And here’s what you need for General Tso’s sauce:
- Soy sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Crushed red peppers or chili oil
- Stock (chicken or vegetable)
- Brown sugar
Even though both rely on soy sauce and pepper, they differ in how they expand their flavor. Princess Chicken uses ginger for aromatics and sake to balance the salt, while chicken or vegetable stock must support General Tso’s sauce. General Tso also uses hoisin sauce to make the taste even more dynamic.
The general process for both dishes is quite similar: prepare the chicken, add the vegetables, then coat everything with sauce. Even the chicken preparation is identical because both dishes recommend marinated pieces. But for this comparison, we’ll focus on how to cook the chicken.
Princess Chicken only requires you brown the meat with cornstarch after letting it sit in the marinade for 30 minutes. That means the chicken retains its default cooked appearance but with a bit of browning.
On the other hand, General Tso’s chicken calls for crispy fried chicken pieces. After marinating each piece, coat them with cornstarch and fry until crispy. You can shallow fry, deep fry, or air fry them as long as the final product has a crust.
Princess Chicken and General Tso are known for their spiciness, but what about their flavor?
Princess Chicken has a straightforward sweetness backed with soy sauce and sesame oil. Sugar delivers sweetness while acting as a glaze once it caramelizes. Sake gives the sauce complexity while balancing the intense flavors of the soy sauce, and ginger ties everything together.
General Tso’s, on the other hand, features a caramel-like character thanks to the brown sugar. The powerful combination of soy sauce and hoisin sauce ensures you get a well-rounded, savory taste that isn’t just from salt. The stock gives the sauce even more depth, and the rice vinegar ensures nothing goes overboard.
Lastly, the texture. Princess Chicken allows you to enjoy the sauce on a neutral surface, allowing each chicken piece to soak up the flavors. General Tso’s, on the other hand, excels in indulging you with a saucy, crunchy bite.
Now it’s time for the fun part: serving the dish.
Princess Chicken and General Tso are served on a rice bed. You can use steamed white or brown rice, but not fried rice – you don’t want to lose the sauce’s character.
Both dishes can also be served with vegetables. Popular choices include broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and water chestnuts.
But the most crucial difference is the presence of nuts. Princess Chicken is popularly served with peanuts or cashews as a garnish, while General Tso’s is served as is. Of course, you don’t have to do this if you have a nut allergy.
Which Is Better, Princess Chicken or General Tso?
Deciding which dish is better can be difficult with similar cooking processes and ingredients. They’re both delicious and offer a savory, spicy experience. Trying to pick the better one comes down to preference.
If you prefer a more laid-back experience, Princess Chicken is the dish for you. You can enjoy each piece coated with the sauce without crunching. As a result, this dish is excellent for refrigerating/freezing and reheating later – no need to worry about soggy chicken.
However, General Tso’s is the better option if you want more exciting, in-the-moment dining. Eating each crispy piece is satisfying, especially when coated with the sauce. However, it’s the kind of dish you must enjoy immediately, or it will lose its crispiness.
So ask yourself: do you intend to enjoy the dish several times via leftovers, or do you want to eat everything now? Answer that, and you’ll determine the better dish for yourself.