Three Cup Chicken

Three Cup Chicken or 'San Bei Ji' (三杯鸡) is of Taiwanese origins. This chicken dish is amazingly delicious and appetizing although made with only three main ingredients which are rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil.

5 stars

Preparation 15 mins
Cooking 20 mins


三杯鸡, San Bei Ji

Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese, Taiwanese

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Nutrition per Serving

525 kcal
13 g
30 g
46 g

‘Three cup chicken’ is the literal translation of ‘san bei ji (三杯鸡)’. Three cup chicken may possibly be the most popular Taiwanese dish. Originally, this dish is prepared using chicken. However, there are now many variations of it using either seafood or other types of meat. I absolutely enjoy this dish due to the flavourful gravy and fragrance of the sesame oil.

Another element which makes Three Cup Chicken really memorable is the spiciness. It is not overpowering yet definitely enough to tickle the taste buds. I usually use fresh chillies but sometimes, dried chillies are used too. I enjoy cooking this dish after a long day at work. Extremely fast and definitely fuss free.

Why is it called Three Cup Chicken?

Cooking Three Cup Chicken is very simple to prepare as the core ingredients are simply soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. Traditionally, the recipe calls for one cup of each ingredient. That was how the name of the dish derived, therefore in Chinese, it is called san bei ji. However, I lessened the amount of ingredients as not much chicken was used. Therefore, the ratio for each ingredient is 1:1:1.

Rice wine - clear 'michiu' or 'shaoxing' wine

The clear rice wine, sometimes labeled as cooking michiu is most commonly used in three cup chicken. However, I substituted michiu with shaoxing wine because both are rice wines. Besides these, other options are dry sherry and sake. It is very important that wine is not omitted when creating this classic Taiwanese dish.

Toasted sesame oil

If possible, opt for toasted sesame oil when cooking this dish. This is because toasted sesame oil would be reduced and creates a thick sauce as the gravy simmers. However, do note that pure sesame oil will not reduce during the cooking process.

Secrets to thick sauce

Subsequently, adding maltose helps to thicken the gravy. In this recipe, you may also use sugar as a sweetener. The outcome of the gravy should be slightly thick and glossy to coat the meat. Personally, I love to brown the skin of the chicken to add a rough texture so that the gravy will coat the chicken pieces better and makes them irresistible.

Garlic and ginger

While the three ingredients are extremely important for this classic Three Cup Chicken, garlic and ginger both play equally important roles too. They need to be sautéed in sesame oil until fragrant before rice wine and soy sauce are added. Care should be taken to ensure that the garlic and ginger are not burned.

Sweet basil or Thai basil

I have chosen to use sweet basil instead of Thai basil in this recipe. Choose the latter if you want to stay close to the authentic recipe. Either way, the basil will add so much fragrance to the dish.

Let me know if you enjoyed this dish when uploading your food snap below. Perhaps, you have adapted it in your own way. I would love to hear your experience.


50 ml
sesame oil
15 g
garlic clove(s)
30 g
400 g
chicken meat
50 ml
shaoxing wine
50 ml
light soy sauce
1 tbsp
fresh chilli (red)
holy basil
1⁄2 tbsp

Steps to Prepare

Three Cup Chicken Step 1

Step 1 of 3

    • 50 ml sesame oil
    • 15 g garlic clove(s)
    • 30 g ginger

Heat sesame oil at medium heat. Sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant.

Three Cup Chicken Step 2

Step 2 of 3

    • 400 g chicken meat

Then, add chicken pieces with skin facing down. Allow skin to brown before turning them over.

Three Cup Chicken Step 3

Step 3 of 3

    • 50 ml shaoxing wine
    • 50 ml light soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp maltose
    • 1 fresh chilli (red)
    • holy basil
    • 1⁄2 tbsp sugar

Add shaoxing wine and soy sauce into pan followed by maltose, sugar and chilli slices. Allow dish to simmer over low heat until gravy thickens. Turn off the stove and add fresh basil. Give the dish a quick toss. Serve with white rice.

Published: May 15, 2017

2 Discussions

4 years ago


The 3 Cup chicken recipe was first class!!

4 years ago


I didn't have maltose, so I used honey instead (I'm a beekeper, so always got plenty). Tasted great! This one's a keeper!

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
4 years ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

That's wonderful. I wonder if we can get local honey in Malaysia.

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