The Search for General Tso 2014
Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Directed by Ian Cheney
DVD , color, 88 min.
Cooking, Food, History, Immigration, Racism
Date Entered: 01/12/2018Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
This well-crafted film delightfully traces the history and evolution of General Tso chicken, a popular and ubiquitous North American restaurant menu item. Named after a victorious 19th century military man from Hunan province, the dish has no equivalent in China itself. Like chop suey and cashew chicken before it, General Tso chicken is a new world invention, but one that links to a more recent past.
In tracing the origins of the popular spicy/sweet fare, filmmaker Cheney (King Corn, 2007) also tells the story of how, why, and where Chinese-American cuisine developed in this country. When the first wave of immigrants arrived in California from China in the mid-1800’s, one of the few ways to earn money was through cooking. These early inexpensive but exotic dishes, quickly adapted to American taste, provided a way in to American society and they remain so to this day.
Traveling between China and the United States, Cheney interviews an interesting array of experts on Chinese-American relations and experiences. From large and small business owners to historians to food aficionados, each provides light-hearted commentary on this mainstay of American eating. Expertly written, produced, and edited, this award-winning documentary is of interest to general audiences and dedicated foodies alike.