GENERAL TSO'S CHICKEN: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PRICES IN PARK SLOPE, BROOKLYN
General Tso's Chicken was chosen as the benchmark for this price comparison. General Tso's Chicken is an inexpensive product, composed of cheap, boneless dark-meat chicken marinated, fried, and then sauced with dry hot peppers. One Park Slope Chinese restaurant offers a free order of General Tso's Chicken as a bonus for total orders over $20, and another for $40. Yet despite its low overhead, General Tso's Chicken is priced as a premium item, and is a staple of any traditional American Chinese restaurant menu's prominently placed items. In this study's samples, such placement occurred under the headers "(Our) Chef's Specialties (Specials)" (18 occurrences), "(Chinese, Peking, Szechuan) House Special(s) (Specialties)" (6), "Chef's Suggestions" (2), and "Cantonese, Szechuan & Hunan Delicacies" (1). In 3 cases, General Tso's Chicken was given no special placement, but was instead listed under "Chicken" (1 occurrence) and "Poultry" (2 occurrences). There was one occurrence of General Tso's Chicken subheaded as "Chicken" within a "Specials" box.
Thirty Park Slope Chinese restaurants were sampled for this study. All menus were selected within two weeks' time. When entrees were offered in pint or quart size, quart size was chosen for purposes of comparison. Not all Park Slope Chinese restaurants may be represented. No comparative test was made for quantity or quality of individual restaurants' entrees. A more thorough method might weight some Chinese restaurants' prices to factor in the equivalent monetary value to the consumer of table service, or to reflect the equivalent monetary value of complimentary takeout accessories such as plastic eating utensils, tea bags, napkins, paper plates, small bags of fried noodles, oranges, or cans of soda, but that is beyond the scope of this report. A serving of white rice is the default accompaniment to an order of General Tso's Chicken. An order of General Tso's Chicken may come in either the traditional white paper folding box with wire handle, or in an aluminum tray with a plastic top.
Prices for General Tso's Chicken are superimposed below on a map of Park Slope. The following labels reflect additional data of note:
i = illiterate description in menu
k = "General Tso'K Chicken"
t = "General Tao's Chicken"
n = not "special" menu item
XXX = subway entrance
4th Ave 5th Ave 6.75 7.60 Bergen | | 6th Ave 7.95i St Marks | |7.25 | 7.75i XXX Prospect | | | 7th Ave XXX Park | |7.75i | | Sterling | |6.95i | | 8th Ave StJohns/Degraw|7.50 | | | | Lincoln | | | | | Berkeley | |6.95 | |8.25 | Union XXX |7.00 |7.95i |8.25 | President | | | | | Carroll | |7.45 | |8.25 | Garfield | | | | | 1st | | | | | 2nd | |7.75 | | | 3rd | | | | | 4th | | | |8.25 | 5th | | | |7.55n | 6th | | | | | 7th | |7.00 | | | 8th | |6.95i | | | 9th | |7.25in | XXX XXX 10th XXX |7.25tn | |7.95 | 11th |6.75 | | |8.25 |7.75 12th | | | | | 13th | | | |7.50ik | 14th | |7.75i | | | 15th | | | | | 16th | | | | | XXX 17th |7.50 | | | | 18th |7.25 |7.25 | | |
Preliminary analysis of data confirms the expected correlation between high prices and placement in the peak real-estate strip of 8th Avenue. But, interestingly, there is no relative rise in price corresponding with the presence of the 2, 3, 4, 5, D, Q, N, R, and F subway stations, where higher commuter traffic would be expected to create a relatively captive audience of a greater number of patrons more willing to pay relatively high prices. The presence of greater numbers of Chinese restaurants in the regions of the subway stations cited supra may have created conditions of competition that stabilize the prices of General Tso's Chicken at a lower than expected level. Further analysis might cross-reference the prices of General Tso's Chicken with other menu offerings to test its suitability as an index for other common items, such as Beef with Black Bean Sauce, House Five Delicacies, or Shrimp Toast. Further analysis of data is pending completion of a related project, Kernel Placement: Frequency of Tiny Bits of Corn in Egg Drop Soup in Bensonhurst.
See Eric Hochman's Definitive General Tso's Chicken Page for the history of General Tso, for the origin of his dish - is it Tso's at all? - and for a recipe.
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