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 (2 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. Aunt LoLo says:

    Wow…that sounds really fast and yummy!!

  2. Jeff says:

    What is the baking soda for at the beginning?

  3. bubblegum says:

    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?

  4. Dominique says:

    So simple and tasty… as usual!!! Have a nice weekend…

  5. Eliana says:

    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.

  6. OMG!!! I wish I had this now and i had dinner not too long ago!! This looks so so good! Will try it soon!

  7. moona says:


    good recipe.i want clay pot recipe.plz

  8. Yours look really delicious! Thanks for the baking soda trick!

  9. 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. ;)

  10. Wow…. i know already, next time i can try using baking soda to tenderise the chicken. Thanks for your tips. :)

  11. LunaCafe says:

    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

  12. Love the look of this! Great for dinner! yum.

  13. Chin says:

    This is one recipe I am looking forward to try. Simple, quick and nutritious. Thanks.

  14. joey says:

    Oh yum! The dark glistening chicken is calling to me! Bookmarked!

  15. jen says:

    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!

  16. 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!

    • If you have a whole chicken, then weight it and add the proportion accordingly. My recipe calls for 1 lb of chicken. Thanks for your sweet note about loving my blog. :)

  17. tigerfish says:

    I enjoy this dish too!
    Also, there is “three-cup” mushrooms for vegetarians and mushroom-lovers like me ;)

  18. bel says:

    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.

  19. lyn says:

    Its look yummy but can i omit Shaoxing wine? Or replace anything other then wine or sake.

  20. Lexa says:

    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.

  21. redmachine says:

    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…

  22. CADcook says:

    I was at the store looking to buy a clay pot, but they only had ceramic pots, is that the same thing?

  23. this looks so good — i’m surprised to see how easy it is to make

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

  25. This looks so good. I’m going to try it out for my family n in laws. :) If I can’t get Thai basil, can regular basil do?

  26. Zaara says:

    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?

  27. TT says:

    “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.

  28. Scary says:

    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.

  29. psychomom says:

    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.

  30. psychomom says:

    oh i forgot, is thai basil any different than the ordinary garden variety basil? i used regular basil.

  31. Cluelessbaker says:

    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~!

  32. May says:

    is the thai basil leave same as the one in the AMerican Basil leave?

  33. jwalker says:

    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

  34. jason kay says:

    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 :)

  35. Anne says:

    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!

  36. I love this Three Cups Chicken dish and the cooking pictures make me mouthwatering. The cooking steps are so detailed:)

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  38. Che says:

    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!

  39. yt says:

    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 !

  40. Gloria Hooker says:

    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

  41. Sher says:

    I can’t find kecap manis, what can I use instead?

  42. LindsayB says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! Thank you for the recipe.

  43. Brian L says:

    I am cooking this tonight :)

  44. lora says:

    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!!

  45. Odie says:

    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!

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  47. Vera says:

    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 :)

  48. lala says:

    is the soya sauce light soya sauce or dark?

  49. Grace Winter-Alsop says:


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

    Thank you

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