Earlier this week, the inventor of the Big Mac died, and now yet another forefather of on-the-go food has passed away. Chef Peng Chang-kuei, best known as the inventor of General Tso’s chicken, has died at the age of 98 from pneumonia. General Tso’s Chicken, the sweet, deep-fried chicken dish, gained even more public notoriety after the release of the popular 2014 documentary, The Search for General Tso.
Peng said in an interview with The China Times that he created his wildly popular dish in 1952 when he was entertaining U.S. Seventh Fleet Commander Admiral Arthur W. Radford. He had already served most of his signature dishes and was looking to try something new so he fried up some chunks of chicken and added the seasonings that created the sticky-sweet sauce we know and order from Panda Express today. The dish itself is named after General Tso, a well-known general from Peng’s hometown in Hunan Province who helped quell the Taiping Rebellion, according to Taiwan News.
In 1973, Peng opened up a restaurant of his own in New York City — serving Hunan Chinese cuisine, most notably the General Tso’s chicken — which quickly gained popularity but was ultimately a flash in the pan. One of Peng’s well-known customers was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Several Chinese-American chefs snatched up the dish for use in their own restaurants and the rest is culinary history.
Peng eventually returned to Taiwan where he set up a restaurant chain that continues to operate successfully.