Peng Chang-kuei, the Taiwanese founder of Pengyuan restaurants and the inventor of General Tso’s chicken, passed away on Nov. 30 at the age of 97, after a month-long hospitalization. According to Peng’s son, General Tso’s chicken brought annual profits of over 2 billion RMB to American-style Chinese restaurants.
Peng started out as an apprentice of Cao Jingchen, a famous early 20th-century Chinese chef. After his apprenticeship, he began developing his own takes on Hunan cuisine. According to his family, Peng first cooked General Tso’s chicken in 1952 for a banquet to welcome an American commander to Taiwan. However, it was not until the 1970s that the dish was named after General Tso.
Peng immigrated to America in 1973. After Ieoh Ming Pei invited Kissinger to Peng’s restaurant, Kissinger became a regular customer – all thanks to Peng’s signature dish. Kissinger’s patronage soon made the dish famous, after ABC did a report on it. Before long, the dish gained popularity among Americans and began appearing on many Chinese restaurant menus around the country.