‘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.