Chef Behind General Tso’s Chicken Dead At 98

World-renowned chef Peng Chang-kuei – best known for creating General Tso’s Chicken, one of America’s most popular Chinese dishes – died Wednesday from pneumonia. He was 98.

Peng, who first made General Tso’s Chicken in the ‘50s as he was working for the Taiwanese government, introduced his signature dish to a summit when U.S. Navy Admiral Arthur W. Radford visited Taiwan in 1954, according to NBC News.

Peng added one of his innovations – a breaded stir-fried chicken dish served with sweet and spicy sauce – to the summit’s banquet menu, and it was an immediate hit. When asked what it was called, he came up with “General Tso’s Chicken” on the spot, in a tribute to a celebrated war hero from Hunan, Peng’s home province.

According to the New York Times, Peng went on to open a successful and well-reviewed restaurant in New York City in 1973. In the ‘80s, he returned to Taiwan where he founded a restaurant chain called “Peng’s Garden Hunan Restaurant,” which specialized in Hunanese cuisine.

Peng was interviewed last year for a documentary called “The Search For General Tso,” which looked into the origins behind his dish and its impact on Chinese American cuisine. In the film, Peng referred to the evolution of chicken dish and its universality as “crazy nonsense.”

Currently, Panda Express, a popular American Chinese fast food chain, has a variation of Peng’s dish on its menu dubbed “American Chinese Original.” “Dishes like General Tso’s and orange chicken are the reasons why Chinese immigrant families in the U.S. were able to provide for their families,” Panda Restaurant Group chief marketing officer Andrea Cherng told NBC in 2015. “The beauty of it now is that this American Chinese cuisine, instead of it being a means of survival for one family, can be celebrated as incredible entrepreneurship.”