Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡)
August 22nd, 2009 135 Comments

Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡)

Three Cups Chicken (三杯鸡)
Three Cups Chicken (三杯鸡) pictures (4 of 4)

Three cup chicken (三杯鸡) is a classic Taiwanese dish, 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.

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 with 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.

Click Page 2 for the Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡) Recipe
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135 comments... read them below or add one

  1. mott says:

    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!

  2. Irene says:

    I would like to try this recipe. May I know what Thai basil is called in Cantonese/Mandarin?
    Thank you.

    • susan chan says:

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

  3. Lynne says:

    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.

  4. Simon says:

    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.

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  6. Pauline Cheong says:

    can i omit Shaoxing wine or Thai basil leaves? what is Kecap Manis? what flavour does it give? thanks

  7. 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.

  8. Pingback:3 Cup Chicken « Weeknite Meals

  9. chona says:

    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!

  10. Ned says:

    You say to cut the chicken into pieces…if you use drumsticks do you chop them up with the bone on?

  11. potluckcook says:

    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!


  13. Yumyumpiggysbum says:

    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

  14. Jo says:

    Hi, this recipe is superb! I tried it and it’s perfect.

  15. Nikkayla says:

    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!

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  17. Bernice says:

    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!

  18. Eva says:

    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!!

    • susan chan says:

      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..

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  21. Naiwen says:

    hello, i must say this looks really great. I myself am chinese, so yeah, we do cook a lot of that in my family.

  22. SparklingRachel says:

    I absolutely love this dish, sadly I only see it in a few Tawainese restaurant :(

  23. Ying says:

    is there any different between dark soy sauce & dark sweet soy sauce?

  24. 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

  25. David says:

    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

  26. angkukueh says:

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

  27. 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) –

    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 :-)

  28. Frenchie says:

    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!

  29. Sam says:

    We love your recipes, so easy, and healthy, you have made my job as kitchen manager of a womens and children emergency shelter in minneapolis so much fun!
    I’m pretty sure I could use your recipes everyday and I would receive not one complaint!
    Huge fan here!
    we love you!

  30. Summicron says:

    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.

  31. Three cup chicken with steamed white rice is a perfect combination, it’s my appetizer. Thanks for your recipe and the beautiful pictures.

  32. mcgo11 says:

    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?

  33. Shootingstar says:

    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.

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  35. 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.

  36. Mumsiecooks says:

    Can I use regular sesame oil instead of dark? Will it affect flavor that much? Thanks!

  37. Carol Salyers says:

    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!

  38. Mechef145 says:

    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. 

  39. Rashida says:

    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.

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