The Search for General Tso
THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO is a feature-length documentary tracing the origins of Chinese American food through what is arguably America’s most popular takeout meal––General Tso’s Chicken.
Anchoring the film is an upbeat quest, through small towns and big cities across America and beyond, to understand the origins and popularity of Chinese American food and its top-selling dish. Who was General Tso? And why do nearly fifty thousand restaurants serve deep-fried chicken bearing his name?
Using this Americanized dish and its mysterious mastermind as a lens onto a larger story of immigration, adaptation, and innovation, the film follows a lighthearted journey, grounded in cultural and culinary history, through restaurants, Chinatowns, and the American imagination. Visits to present-day Chinese restaurants spark forays into the past, guided by chefs, scholars, and the occasional opinionated customer. The film’s lively soundtrack and shadow-puppet animations contribute both whimsy and momentum, as viewers find they’re on a search to answer a deeper question: how did America’s Chinese food become so… American?