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Three Cup Chicken

Three cup chicken - easy and authentic three cup chicken (san bei ji) recipe that anyone can make at home. So homey, delicious and takes 20 mins to make!!

Three Cup Chicken

Three cup chicken – easy and authentic three cup chicken (san bei ji) recipe that anyone can make at home. So homey, delicious and takes 20 mins to make!!

Three cup chicken (三杯鸡) is  one of the most classic Taiwanese recipes, one that I never miss out whenever I eat out at Taiwanese restaurants. I love Taiwanese food—unpretentious, humble, and homey dishes that score high on yum-o-meter.

Taiwanese food is basically Chinese food with local influences, slightly different cooking methods, local adaptations and variations. Many Taiwanese dishes remind me of Chinese-Malaysian food, not due to proximity but the origin of such dishes from Fujian province where many early immigrants settled in Taiwan and Malaysia/Singapore.

Three cup chicken - easy and authentic three cup chicken (san bei ji) recipe that anyone can make at home. So homey, delicious and takes 20 mins to make!!

The name “three cup chicken” (三杯鸡) comes from the three key ingredients: sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and soy sauce. “Cups” refer to the equal ratio instead of literal measurement. A true and authentic Taiwanese three cup chicken calls for  basil leaves, the soul of the dish that lends an exotic aroma and minty nuance to the taste. Taiwanese also love their “three cup” recipe, for example three cup squid (三杯小卷). Both are equally delectable.

Here is my three cup chicken recipe, adapted to my personal liking. I especially love the sauce with steamed white rice. It’s wonderful! If you like Taiwanese recipes, you should also check out this pork and chicken rolls recipe.


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150 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. bubblegum

    I love how easy and tasty this receipe looks. I can’t wait to try it. One question, What can i use instead of Shaoxing wine?

  2. Eliana

    In the picture it appears that there is something else in addition to the chicken and the basil in the dish. Did you add water chestnuts or mushrooms or anything else? Looks great, whatever it is.

  3. I had tried this dish once. Thai basil leave is the key ingredients in this recipe. The aroma of these leaves made the dish so flavourful. Will try your recipe soon. ;)

  4. Beautiful photo! This dish sounds heavenly. Did you dissolve the baking soda in water and then marinate the chicken in that liquid? Would love to make this. …Susan

  5. jen

    this looks fantastic! and best of all, i don’t have to go out and get any additional ingredients! i even have th clay pot! can’t wait to try it!

  6. Just to clarify a comment that was made here – you recommend Thai Basil for this dish? We have an abundance, so I think I need to try this. How much would you ramp up the proportions of the other ingredients for a whole chicken, cut into its parts?? (We have an abundance of those from our CSA). Love this blog, BTW!

  7. bel

    Hi, im wondering what type of basil you use. Is it the Thai basil or the regular ones? I can only get the regular basil leaves at my place. Thanks.

  8. Lexa

    Made this for lunch yesterday. It was fabulous. I just used less kecap manis and added chili. Superb.Definitely a keeper.

    Cookbooks seem to recommend substituting sherry for Shiaxing.

  9. redmachine

    Looks really very nice!! Can almost smell it here!

    Will definitely give this beautiful dish a try this weekend. In fact, I went out to buy a bottle of good Shaoxing wine and a bottle of good quality Dark Sesame Oil (good old Ghee Hiang brand) from the Batu Lancang market (where else but in Penang) this afternoon after reading your recipe.

    I love Basil Leaf too. I always cook this famous Thai dish called Kai Pad Bai Ga Prow (Stir fried minced/sliced chicken with basil leaf) using lots of Basil Leaf. It’s so cheap at the Batu Lancang market.

    Hmmm, let me check if I still have my claypot tucked somewhere in the kitchen cabinets…

  10. PlatinumGirl

    Oooo i simply lurve this dish ….. its very fragrant. Is there a difference between the Thai basil leaves and any other basil leaves ?

  11. Looks great – nice recipe – I have a ton of fresh thai basil, and run out of ideas with what to do with them. I’m just a little nervous about heating the sesame oil, I did a stir fry once and added sesame oil to a very hot pan, and it gave off such powerful fumes and what I thought was a really strong smell. So I thought I amde a mistake and sesame oil was just supposed to be used as a garnish or flavor enhancer at the end of cooking – i.e. not to be heated at high temperatures?

  12. TT

    “1 1/2 teablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)”
    – Nobody spotted this? Any Taiwanese here? :-) This must be what you meant by “adapted to my personal liking”? Usually we use a lot of sugar and I believe there was arguments that sugar is consider one of the three cups. Using Kecap Manis definitely is an interesting twist.

  13. Scary

    Wow! this was amazing! such a simple dish yet an elegant flavor. I substituted sweet potato starch for the baking soda. It is a good tenderizer and won’t upset your stomach if you fail to wash it all off.

  14. psychomom

    made this dish last week, was SOOOO GOOOOD…. thanks for the recipe. can i use the baking soda strategy for steak and other meats? as long as i wash it (the baking soda) off really well. am i washing off any nutrients? i know that if i don’t rinse it well, the food has an ammonia taste to it.

  15. Cluelessbaker

    Yours look GREAT~! Just made this for dinner~~ Not sure if its because I used chicken wings… there seems to be alot of liquid left in the pot … and i cant get the black “glossiness” ( is there even such a word :P ) …. Mine look more brownish ~~ but definitely will try this again~~!!

    Thank you for the recipe~!

  16. jwalker

    Oh yeah. This was REALLY good. My wife had had a hard day in the salt mines and came home to this. She thanks you. Did exactly as you said, I have two small sandy pots, heated them up good and hot, the chicken caramelized well, the garlic charred and then got soft, I used very fresh young ginger which was superb and tenderized the chicken with baking soda. My wife said, “again please” so I will. Served it with multi-grain wild rice and super fresh haricot vert picked the same day sauteed with shallots, pine nuts, tamarind and XO Sauce. Thank you thank you for such a wonderful site. Whenever I need something truly authentic and tasty I turn to you. jw

  17. jason kay

    Just wanted to finally add a note of how much I love your blog. I’ve tried so many recipes on your site and they’ve all worked so well. Just felt guilty taking so much and giving no thanks :)

  18. Anne

    Oh yes I love your beautiful blog! The recipes are great and the photography superb.

    I’ve just made the Three Cups Chicken. Mine is not as pretty as your photo but it’s so quick to make and tastes wonderful, and that’s the important thing.

    Next time — Salt and Pepper Chicken.

    Thanks so much!

  19. Che

    Hi, I live in Dubai and there is no way I can get Kecap Manis!!! :(
    Any suggested alternatives? I am desperate to try the recipe!

  20. yt

    I tried this recipe and got a double thumbs up from my husband , so I’m passing it on to you. I’ve also tried the spare ribs with black beans — that was very good too !

    Thanks for sharing your recipes !

  21. Gloria Hooker

    Do you have a recipe for teriyaki sesame chicken? I had it at a restaurant recently and it was wonderful. Please email your answer. Thanks

  22. lora

    I made this recipe in January and it has since become my favorite recipe! I make it at least once a week now. Once I couldn’t get Thai basil and it just wasn’t the same so now I always keep some in my fridge! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  23. Odie

    The Chicken dish in the picture looks delicious! Now, I noticed that the drumsticks appear very small. Did you chop the drumsticks in half before cooking them?
    By the way, I love your site; very informative and yummy recipes!

  24. Vera

    Thank you very much for such easy cooking recipe. I actually added some slice cili together with the basil and lastly before serve, I put in 1 table spoon of the ShiaoXiang Wine and stir it 1 time evenly so it will have the wine smell. Also I marinated the chicken with all the above seasoning before stir fried :) yummy :)

  25. Grace Winter-Alsop

    Hi,

    What can I replace Shaoxing wine or chinese black vinegar with as i am not able to get them in Dubai?

    Thank you

  26. mott

    I actually cook this with porkribs/pork belly. And I marinate it overnight with the basil leaves and sauces, and the dish is just amazing!

    • susan chan

      Thai basil actually smells almost like the italian sweet basil, in chinese, it is called “jiu chen ta” Hope this helps.

  27. Lynne

    I love your blog!! You have helped me learn to cook and I made this dish for lunch. Very tasty and so easy to make. You’re a sweetheart.

  28. Simon

    Tastes just like the one i used to have in china, except that I had to substute Ketcap manis with Brown sugar which worked just fine.

  29. This is such an awesome recipe! I made it tonight for a very quick dinner (didn’t have much time to cook because of work today . . . blech!) paired with reheated white rice, and it filled my home with a nice garlicky/gingery smell. The chicken turned out very tender. I can’t wait to make it again.

  30. chona

    hello! my employer doesnt like a thai basil leaves, is there any substitute for it, or can i add just add a few leaves.. does it taste good? thank you!

  31. potluckcook

    I have to cook vegetarian dishes for 25-30 servings. Have used this recipe with 2 kinds fresh mushrooms (large boxes from Costco, quartered), 2 cans of whole button mushrooms, and 3 packets of vegetarian chicken chunks. Sometimes I can’t get Thai basil – and it really isn’t the same. However, still very good. I love your blog!

  32. Yumyumpiggysbum

    Thanks so much for posting your recipe, your photo inspired me to make this but I made a few tweaks. Very simple, easy and tasty to make. Had to substitute Thai basil with chopped spring onion as didn’t think that basil used in Italian cooking would be a good replacement. Desperate now to experience the aroma of Thai basil, I can’t find it in the shops so I’ve now decided to grow it myself!
    Posted my adapted recipe here http://yumyumpiggysbum.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/hurrah-for-three-cup-chicken-almost/

  33. Hey there, I tried this recipe out tonight for me and my parents and it was FANTASTIC! :D Thank you so much for this blog there are so many delicious-sounding recipes on here – and this one was stellar, and my parents were very impressed :D

    Thank you so much for the recipe!

  34. Bernice

    Hi! Would love to try your three cup chicken recipe, quick question though.. Can’t seem to find Thai basil leaves :( Can I use the dried version? And would I use the same amount of dried Thai basil for the recipe? Thank you! :D I recently tried your sesame oil chicken, it was a hit!

  35. Eva

    This dish is great! But one question: When you say Thai Basil do you mean holy basil or sweet basil?
    And which of the two do you use in the Graw Pao and Penang Curry?
    Thanks so much!!
    Eva

    • susan chan

      it is sweet basil for this chicken dish and for graw pao, you use holy basil. As for Panang curry, here in thailand, they use sweet basil too..

  36. The Happy Glut

    This recipe looks delicious! I would love to try it when I get my hands on some Kecap Manis! Thanks for uploading these yummy recipes!! :D

  37. David

    First off, thank you for sharing all your wonderful recipes with us!! I’ve been a fan of this website for a long time and have had great success following your recipes :)

    I’m planning to make this dish tonight but am unsure how much “6 slices of ginger” is. What is the length of the ginger for this recipe?

    Thank you

  38. angkukueh

    Made this tonight and it is absolutely fabulous! The Thai basil made such a difference in taste! Thank you for this recipe!

  39. RecipeNewZ

    I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author’s site.

    It’s called RecipeNewZ (with Z) – http://recipenewz.com

    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

  40. Frenchie

    I’ve been meaning to try this recipe since I saw the pic on Pinterest. I happened to have thai basil at home and I love it! Even my Taiwanese roomies said the flavor was right on! Thank you!

  41. Summicron

    I don’t put a big amount of basil, I put HUGE amount of basil in it. Yes it does overpowers the dish but that’s the way I like my 3-cup chicken.

    And I usually add some dried chillies to give it a spicy kick when I’m not cooking this for the kids. Also I reserve a fraction of toasted sesame oil and Shaoxing wine for finishing, adding them near the end.

  42. mcgo11

    Hi Bee, i am your new subscriber. glad about it. i found your food blog as i was finding for 3 cup chicken recipe. would like to inquire if marinating porkchop and beef with baking soda also soften the meat?

  43. Shootingstar

    I made this dish yesterday. I really like the flavor of the chicken. But I didnt like how it contained lots of water. I want to ask you how to control the water from the chicken when I cook. Thank you so much.

  44. Yolanda Kamle

    You have amazing dishes. But what can I substitute shaoxing wine with. I don’t use wine in cooking. Is ordinary dried basil leaves ok? Coz here where I live I don’t think there is. Thank you.

  45. Carol Salyers

    My son and I have made this twice. We found all ingredients at our local Asian-Pacific Market and the wine at the liquor store. We have only had trouble getting Thai Basil — it goes very fast at our market. We used regular basil that time, but it’s not the same. Am preparing to make for the third time today. This recipe is outstanding. We serve it with Jasmine or Basmati rice. We followed the recipe pretty much exactly as written, including the baking soda part, which really does make some tender chicken. If you shop at an Asian market in your city, there is usually an employee to help you figure out what you’re looking for. Tricky when the labels aren’t in English!

  46. Mechef145

    I love Chinese dishes and the fact that they try to cook in clay pots as much as possible. Honestly, i think food tastes much better when cooked in clay and i mean unglazed real clay pots, not ceramic ones.  There are so many benefits to clay pot cooking, and i found this website which is dedicated to this type of cooking, very helpful when i was in the process of learning about it: miriamseartehncookware DOT com.   Now i cook all my food in these pots and love the difference it makes in my life. 

  47. Rashida

    Thank you for the recipe. I lived in Taiwan for 3 years
    And this was one of my favorite dishes. Please advise what
    can be used as a substitute for the wine.

    • There are two types of ginger – young and old. Young ginger has very thin almost transparent light yellowish skin. Old ginger has thicker skin…anyway, most markets sell only old ginger so you should be fine…in Asian stores they sell both young and old.

  48. paulina

    This recipe looks very easy and very good, I really want to make it.it is OK if I take the skin off? I really don’t know specially because of the baking soda, can I use the baking soda on the meat without the skin? Please advice. Thanks

  49. Judy

    I have horrible knife skills, so since these are already drumsticks, can I just rub the meat with baking soda and continue from there?

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