Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken RecipeJump to Recipe
Cooked in soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil, and loaded with garlic, ginger, and fresh Thai basil, this classic Taiwanese chicken dish is a must-try dish. Try this Three Cup Chicken recipe for dinner tonight.
Why is it called Three-Cup Chicken?
Originating from Taiwan, this dish is called sanbeiji, which literally translates to ‘three-cup chicken’ in Chinese. The ‘three-cup” comes from the three cups of sauces required. For each chicken, a cup of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil are added with a 1:1:1 ratio. This three-cup chicken recipe only uses a third of a cup for each sauce but the original ratio is maintained. Feel free to use more sauce if you’d like though.
The traditional way to cook sanbeiji chicken uses an earthenware pot and low temperatures. Don’t worry if you don’t have one though. You can get the same results using a pan with higher edges. Just ladle the excess sauce over the chicken once in a while during the braising process.
The chicken is seared using a high temperature before being braised in the mixture of sauces. Then it’s cooked until all the sauce has evaporated or absorbed. If you do end up having some extra sauce, it’s great for making other stir-fry dishes.
Three cup chicken is best served when it’s sizzling hot with a side of steamed rice. Also, check out our other classic Taiwanese recipes like Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup recipe. Now let’s get started on the recipe!
Three-Cup Chicken Recipe
- 3 lbs chicken thighs, drumsticks or wings work too
- ¼ cup sesame oil
- ⅓ cup light soy sauce
- ⅓ cup rice wine
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1-inch knob ginger
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, optional
- 2 shallots
- Handful of fresh Thai basil leaves
- Peel the cloves of garlic and gently flatten them with the side of a knife. Peel the ginger and thinly slice.
- Clean the chicken and pat dry with paper. If you wish, you can remove the bone from the meat and into bite-sized cubes.
- Take out a large frying pan and add the sesame oil. Put on medium heat and let the oil heat up. Once heated, add the ginger, garlic, chillies and shallots. Continuously stir them until lightly browned. Afterwards, scoop everything out and set aside in a small bowl.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high. Lay the chicken pieces, skin side down and in a single layer, on the hot oil. Cook until the chicken skin is nicely browned and has a crispy texture. Then flip them over and brown the other side as well.
- Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and shallots back to the pan.
- Add in the soy sauce and rice wine. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and braise the chicken for about 20 minutes. Using a ladle or large spoon, pour the sauce over the chicken to add more flavour. You can also flip them over after 10 minutes.
- Taste the sauce occasionally; you may need to add more soy sauce depending on your preferences.
- Turn up the heat again and stir in half of the Thai basil. Continue cooking the chicken, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened and reduced. At this point, there will appear to be more oil than sauce.
- Add the rest of the basil leaves. Cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and you're done. Serve hot with rice. Enjoy!