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.
1 lb. chicken (I used chicken drumsticks)
6 slices peeled ginger
6 cloves garlic (skin peeled)
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 1/2 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)
A big bunch of Thai basil leaves
1 tablespoon baking soda (to tenderize the chicken, optional)
Cut the chicken into pieces and marinate them with baking soda. Set aside for 10 minutes before rinsing the chicken off with water. Make sure the baking soda is completely rinsed off. Pat dry the chicken pieces and set aside.
Heat up a claypot on high heat and add the dark sesame oil. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until aromatic. Add in chicken and do a few quick stirs. Add soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and continue to stir-fry the chicken. Cover the chicken and lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add basil leaves and stir well with the chicken, dish out and serve immediately.
This recipe calls for dark sesame oil, which is different from regular sesame oil. Dark sesame oil is a lot more expensive but the flavor is more intense and with a stronger toasted sesame fragrance.
You can skip the first step of tenderizing the chicken with baking soda. I personally like it because it makes the chicken so tender.
If you don’t have a clay pot, you can use a regular wok to make this dish.
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