Thursday, November 4, 2010

General Tso's vs. grandfather chicken (King's Wok)

Grandfather chicken (King's Wok)

Before arriving in Philadelphia, my default at Americanized Chinese takeout places was always General Tso's, Tao's, Gao's, or whatever you want to call it... chicken. Sometimes I'd change it up for the sake of variety, and I'd order sesame chicken, but the point stands. I'm a big fan of fried chunks of chicken and sauce. Imagine how surprised I was, when I learned of the existence of a third such implementation of chicken. One that's known as... 'grandfather chicken.'

One problem... I'm not entirely sure what grandfather chicken actually is. Some places list it as the same thing as General Tso's, and some places have both on their menu (see Kim's Oriental, Yue Kee, and King's Wok). In an effort to get to the bottom of this mystery, I went to King's Wok... and ordered up both.

King's Wok Chinese Food truck

For the past few weeks, I've heard about King's Wok non-stop. It's supposedly the greatest thing to hit the Chinese food truck scene since the advent of pork fried rice (and that stuff is fantastic). They seem to have quite the following, since if you go around lunchtime, there's usually a crowd of 15-20 people standing around waiting. Maybe it's because their food is wonderfully delicious, beyond the description of words... or maybe it's just because the guy running the truck is smart and parked right next to the engineering buildings (a.k.a. Asian person central). Either way, they get a lot of business, and people seem to like them.

Grandfather chicken (King's Wok)

I think the chicken pictured above (and at the very top) was the grandfather chicken. For $4, you're given a box of rice with breaded fried chicken, broccoli, and some sort of dark sauce with scallions in it. Pretty standard from what I've seen when ordering grandfather chicken. The rice was fine, no one really fucks up rice. The chicken was appropriately tender, with a thin crispy shell, all covered in the dark brown sauce, which was overly salty, not really sweet, and pretty nondescript really. It was okay, but the soy sauce really needed to be toned back a bit.

General Tso's (King's Wok)

... and onto the General Tso's chicken. I think. I actually got the two mixed up, because the guy never told me, or marked which was which. He probably thought I was a bit of a moron for ordering two things that are 99% the same, but whatever.

General Tso's (King's Wok)

For $4, you're given a box of rice with breaded fried chicken, broccoli, and some sort of dark sauce without scallions in it. Pretty standard from what I've seen when ordering General Tso's chicken. The rice was fine, no one really fucks up rice. The chicken was appropriately tender, with a thin crispy shell, all covered in the dark brown sauce, which was overly salty, not really sweet, and pretty nondescript really. It was okay, but the soy sauce really needed to be toned back a bit.

If you think I just copy pasted that last description word for word, you'd be wrong. I noted the lack of scallions. Honestly, I have no clue what the difference is. One of them had a bit more sauce, and looked soggier, but I'm pretty sure it was the same exact thing... minus scallions. So in conclusion, General Tso's = grandfather chicken. It's just some brilliant ploy by Chinese places to make their menu look more awesome. Secondary conclusion, King's Wok is not that good. I'm not really sure what my friend was talking about.

8 comments:

Rodzilla said...

a quick google-session confirmed your suspicion. At least at some other venue
http://www.beijingatpenn.com/lunchtakeout.php

dominic said...

post more

Nicholas said...

Rodzilla - I knew they said it was the same thing, but so many other places said it was different. I'm calling BS on all those places.

Barrett said...

Where is King's Wok? I'm pretty set on Kim's but I'm always looking for new carts to try. Also, Kim's Grandfather Chicken > General Tso.

Nicholas said...

Barrett - I still can't tell the difference (maybe because the variance in their quality leads to some overlap in characteristics :p).

King's Wok is near Moore, across the street from the football field-ish? It's not really that good...

Barrett said...

The grandfather chicken has a much thinner sauce. I found the General Tso's to be overly sweet and goopy. But sauce aside, you're right: it's pretty much the same.

Anonymous said...

The places I have always gotten it from, where I live, mark General Tso's as dark meat and Grandfather Chicken as white meat.. If not it is all the same.

Anonymous said...

There is a store on 2nd street between market and chestnut that has Grandfather's chicken. I think that if you try theirs you will see and taste the difference.

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