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Sesame Chicken vs General Tso vs Orange Chicken

Sesame Chicken vs General Tso vs Orange Chicken (2022)

Last Updated on November 19, 2022 by Shari Mason

Asian cuisine, particularly Chinese, has a wide range of chicken dishes—Sesame Chicken, General Tso’s chicken, and Orange Chicken are on the top lists.

These popular dishes are relatively identical, but these three dishes have core differences in their ingredients and taste. In this article, we’ll tackle more about what sets them apart.

Let’s check the differences among Sesame Chicken vs General Tso vs Orange Chicken. 

Comparing Sesame Chicken, General Tso & Orange Chicken 

Sesame Chicken in a Rice Bowl

You might find these dishes similar at one glance, but they have a lot of differences. Each taste is greatly affected by the unique marination of the chicken, and the sauce mixes used.

Sesame Chicken has the common soy sauce and brown sugar combination, making a sweeter taste with nutty flavors from the sesame seeds. 

Unlike Sesame Chicken, General Tso doesn’t have a nuttiness flavor but has a spicier flavor because of its chili ingredients.

Compared to Sesame Chicken and General Tso, Orange Chicken uses fruit juice in its ingredient—orange zest, which adds tanginess to its sweet and sour taste.

Head To Head Comparison

History & Origin

Sesame Chicken originated in the southern Chinese region of Guangdong in the 1980s. It was believed to be made by a restaurant in Hong Kong that uses sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Meanwhile, General Tso was created by Chef Peng Chang-Kuei in 1955 in Taiwan for a welcoming banquet. It was named after a real general of a Hunanese war hero.[1]

Orange Chicken is widely known in America, but the original version originates in China. This ’tangerine chicken’ or dried citrus peel chicken dish is believed to come from Hunan, China.

Taste

You can taste a delicious mix of sweet and nutty flavors in a Sesame Chicken. It is focused on its sweet umami flavor, unlike General Tso’s spicier flavor.

General Tso has a significant spiciness in the flavor with a deep, complex umami sauce comparable to a barbeque sauce. On the other hand, Orange Chicken has a more tangy taste.

Orange Chicken has a sweet and sour flavor compared to the two dishes, and you will taste its prominent orange savory flavor upfront.

Ingredients

Sesame Chicken uses chicken breast or boneless thigh, with cornstarch and egg for the batter. For the sauce, a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

General Tso uses boneless thigh chicken meat marinated from its sauce mixture of chicken broth, soy sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar, sugar, and chili peppers, with fresh garlic and ginger. 

The marinated chicken is tossed in a mix of flour and cornstarch then it’s ready to deep fried. Like General Tso, Orange Chicken is marinated but uses egg in its batter.

Orange Chicken mainly uses boneless chicken breasts marinated in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, and orange juice. For its batter, it uses egg and cornstarch.

Texture

orange chicken in a white plate

These dishes have distinct crispy chicken bites with sticky sauce. General Tso doesn’t use egg in its batter, making the chicken bites’ texture crispier after deep frying.

Orange Chicken has deep-fried crispy chicken bites mixed into the orange-flavored sauce, while Sesame Chicken is known for its sweet sauce with crunch from toasted sesame seeds.

For some recipes, the secret to Sesame Chicken’s distinctive crunchiness is its cooking process–-it’s doubled fried.

Appearance

Orange Chicken has the lightest color of sauce mixes compared to Sesame Chicken and General Tso due to its light-colored ingredients, especially if you prefer a light soy sauce.

Sesame Chicken has a light brownish impression from its soy sauce and brown sugar ingredient, with added little white crunch from the topped sesame seeds.

Meanwhile, General Tso has the darkest color appearance because of the hoisin and soy sauce barbeque-like mixture. 

Popularity

Sesame Chicken is a go-to Chinese dish known for its sweet, salty, nutty features from the sesame seed. It is currently eaten as a take-out dish in Canada and the US. 

On the other hand, Orange Chicken and General Tso’s chicken are rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China but are making their name great in the US.

These dishes became Americanized and a cultural import making Chinese American dishes innovations. [2]

Are They Traditional Chinese Dishes? 

Sesame Chicken, General Tso, and Orange Chicken originated in China and have traditional Chinese recipe versions. 

However, these quintessential Chinese dishes are also a product of clever marketing that became popular in many Chinese restaurants in Asia and North America.

“Chinese food tries to engage the mind, not just the palate. To provoke the intellect.”

– Nicole Mones, Food Author

Sesame Chicken, General Tso, and Orange Chicken have been innovated and become well-known not as traditional Chinese dishes but as a fusion of Chinese-American dishes.

Do Sesame Chicken, General Tso & Orange Chicken Have Similarities?

General Tso in a Bowl

Yes, Sesame Chicken, General Tso, and Orange Chicken have similarities. They all have a touch of Chinese background and have similarities in their ingredients. 

Sesame Chicken, General Tso, and Orange Chicken use boneless chicken meat, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. 

Also, these dishes have sticky sauce textures from the caramelized sugar ingredient or slurry mix made with cornstarch and water mixture to thicken the sauce.

FAQs 

Which is better, sesame chicken or orange chicken?

It depends. Sesame chicken is better for those who love a nutty, sweet dish flavor. But if you prefer something sweet and sour, go for orange chicken.

Is sesame chicken and orange chicken the same?

No, sesame chicken and orange chicken are not the same because they differ in the base sauce ingredient, cooking method, and taste. 

Sesame chicken mixes soy sauce with sesame oil, while orange chicken uses soy sauce and orange zest. However, both use boneless chicken meat.

Conclusion

If you can’t decide what dish to choose between Sesame Chicken, General Tso, and Orange Chicken, the comparisons above might help you.

Generally, all these dishes originated in China, but over time, they have been Americanized through marketing in popular American-Chinese restaurants.

These dishes have a specific prominent flavor that will meet your taste preference. Sesame Chicken is a good dish with crispy, tender chicken bites and a nutty, sweet dish.

General Tso is better if you prefer spicy dishes because it uses extra chili ingredients. But if you like a sweet and sour combination, you might like Orange Chicken.

References:

  1. https://www.thekitchn.com/the-true-story-behind-general-tso-s-chicken-240836 
  2. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/10/30/560822270/orange-chicken-panda-express-gift-to-american-chinese-food-turns-30 
Shari Mason

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