Have you noticed that a lot of food documentaries have come online on Netflix in recent months? Or is it because I've watched a few and it's putting them up front and center in my page because it thinks I like them? I suppose Netflix has me pegged, because, it's right: I do like them, especially one recent doc that came online last week called The Search For General Tso (the film got a limited release in theaters and VOD earlier this year).
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If you read Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles on the history of Chinese food in America, or watched her associated TED Talk, you already know the story about how this tangy sauce-covered fried chicken dish became the Chinese food that Americans can't get enough of but that no one has heard of in China. Ms. Lee is actually one of the film's producers. In fact, the original title of Lee's book was The Long March of General Tso, who, as Lee said quite succinctly, "has marched very far indeed, because he is sweet, he is fried, and he is chicken -- all things that Americans love."
The film goes just as deep as her book does, explaining how Chinese food became entrenched in America, and how the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 unknowingly laid the groundwork for its eventual ubiquity from coast to coast. The rest of the doc, with talking heads that includes the inventor of the dish and LA Chowhound David Chan, goes down as easy as an order General Tso, and in fact, went well with an actual order of General Tso's chicken I got from Pick Up Stix.
Why Pick Up Stix? Because Panda Express, my usual go-to for Chinese-American fast food joint is one of the few Chinese joints that doesn't make General Tso's. I suppose there's only room there for one sweet, fried chicken dish, and Panda Express has already pledged its allegiance to Orange Chicken.