A recent trip to a restaurant touting the “World’s Greatest General Tso Chicken” reminded me of a restaurant that I’ve been unintentionally ignoring.
It’s pretty far off of the beaten path, but not far enough that there’s really any excuse for not going there.
As an RPI graduate student, this was a frequently visited spot for me and my entourage. Surprisingly, it was even a popular spot for me when I and the rest of the world were big on the Atkins diet circa 2004. I’ve sampled the menu up and down. I’ve had the good, and I’ve had the mediocre.
The General Tso chicken at Plum Blossom is outstanding.
On a recent day off, on a trip into Troy for some errands, I visited Plum Blossom for lunch. You know I ordered the General ($8.80 including soup and fried rice). But you also know that I ordered more stuff.
The meal came with soup. I had options of wonton, hot and sour, egg drop, and corn chowder (I think…I can’t find a menu online + I forgot). I went with the corn chowder.
The soup was basically chicken broth with egg drop and bits of corn. What was notable about the soup was that it was served hotter than hell, and arrived at the table super thick. As I stirred it to cool it down, the carryover heat broke down the corn starch structure that was thickening it, at which point the soup lost all viscosity. It tasted fine. I did have to add a little bit of salt.
I also decided to have some BBQ spare ribs ($6.45).
These are, by default, cooked to my taste. They are marinated in a sauce that is slightly sweet, and grilled to a very well done. This gives you something to chew on as you eat them. It’s really the way Chinese spare ribs should be, not a saucy, greasy mess like the takeout places usually serve.
I just about finished making my way through the ribs and the main event arrived.
No, not the fried rice…the General Tso Chicken.
At this point, I think it’s necessary to break the dish down (something I don’t normally do to this level).
The real chicken parts are lightly coated in a corn starch/flour batter and fryed. Why do I say “real chicken parts”? Well, sometimes, like at the mall, you can’t even identify what part of the chicken you’re eating. Well, here, some bites are all white meat, some are white and dark, you know, like when you eat real chicken.
The sauce isn’t an orange sticky mess. At Plum Blossom, there is a real depth in flavor. The first thing you’ll note is that the sauce is really dark, like dark brown, almost black.
The sauce is very sweet, but there are reasonable savory and spicy flavors to totally justify the sweetness.
The first time I was served this dish, years ago, I doubted it was even what I ordered. I mean, they don’t even use those little red peppers. They spice the dish with jalepeno peppers!
And this is why I think this is an outstanding dish. The minds of the people in the kitchen have stretched the boundaries of the expectations for General Tso chicken. You will take a bite and wonder why every General Tso chicken you’ve ever tasted doesn’t taste like this.
After my meal, I got a chocolate fortune cookie with this fortune inside.