Home » Ingredient » Poultry » Chicken » Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}

by Shirley

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}

Three Cup Chicken or San Bei Ji 三杯鸡 in Chinese features juicy yummy chicken thighs braised in a tasty sauce made of three traditional Chinese condiments. The “Three Cup” refers to soy sauceShaoxing Wine and sesame oil. Fresh basil is absolutely the essential highlight of the dish. The aroma of basil works sensationally with the three condiments to create this mouth-watering flavor and taste. Super delicious and super easy to make.

What is Three Cup {San Bei 三杯}

Three Cup Dish is a traditional Taiwanese cooking that features food braised in three liquid condiments combination of soy sauce, Shaoxing Wine and sesame oil, along with fresh basil. Other seasonings such as fresh garlic, ginger and a pinch of sugar are there to enhance the flavor.

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡} is a popular Three Cup Dish. Three Cup Tofu is the vegetarian version, which is also well-liked. If you like both chicken and tofu, you can certainly combine both in one dish, which in fact is a classic Three Cup Dish.

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}
Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}

What is Three Cup Sauce made of?

Three traditional and ancient Chinese liquid condiments, namely soy sauceShaoxing Wine and sesame oil, make up the foundation of the Three Cup sauce. Old-fashioned way uses the same amount of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil.

During old days, when people cook meals for a large extended family, because the food portion is big, they add 1 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of Shaoxing wine and 1 cup of sesame oil. This is how the name “Three Cup” comes from.

Fresh basil is the must-have highlight of the Three Cup dishes. It simply compliments and completes the flavor.

Additionally, we add fresh garlic, ginger and sugar to further enhance the flavor.

What Ingredients do you need to make Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken?

Three Cup Chicken Ingredients
Three Cup Chicken Ingredients

For chicken, skinless chicken thighs work the best, either with or without bones.

The iconic Three Cup Sauce includes naturally aged soy sauce {Jiang You}, light soy sauceShaoxing winesesame oil and sugar.

You can substitute naturally aged soy sauce with dark soy sauce.

For sugar, Turbinado Sugar, also known as “sugar in the raw” is my go-to cooking sugar. Brown rock sugar also works great. They are minimally processed and contain natural molasses that gives the meat an elevated taste.

How to make a perfect Three Cup Chicken?

Tip #1 is to sear the chicken thigh first before braising

Sear the chicken thigh for making Three Cup Chicken
Sear the chicken thigh for making Three Cup Chicken

A quality nonstick fry pan is a must for easier meat searing. Heat the hard anodized fry pan on medium-high heat for 1 minute and then add ginger slices and lay chicken thighs flat on the pan. Cook for 2 minutes and then flip the chicken and cook on the other side for 2 minutes.

Usually you will need a bit of oil for searing the meat. However, in this case, I notice there are some chicken fat remains on the thighs, that is why I opt out extra oil. If your chicken thighs are very lean, then add 1 tsp cooking oil such as avocado oil or canola oil if needed.

Tip #2 is to braise the chicken in a wok or clay pot

Braising Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji} in a Wok
Braising Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji} in a Wok

A wok or clay pot works well for braising the meat.

Tip #3 is to have ample basil

Basil in our backyard garden
Basil in our backyard garden

Basil is an essential ingredient of this iconic Three Cup Chicken Dish, and you need a lot of them. I make this dish often during summer when basil growing in our backyard garden.

Tip #4 is using the turbinado sugar for cooking meat

Homemade sugar syrup for candied walnuts ingredients

Also known as “Sugar in the Raw”, Turbinado Sugar is the minimally processed sugar that has a natural, golden, large crystal look. Not only they are super healthy, they also taste wonderfully having this lasting, deep sweetness, thanks to the natural molasses they contain.

Like Three Cup Dishes? Remember to check out delicious vegan dish Three Cup Tofu.

If you are thinking about a lighter version and completely skip sesame oil, check out Quick and Easy Basil Soy Sauce Braised Chicken Thighs.

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡}

Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji 三杯鸡} Recipe

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Three Cup Chicken or San Bei Ji 三杯鸡 in Chinese features juicy yummy chicken thighs braised in a tasty sauce made of three traditional Chinese condiments. The “Three Cup” refers to soy sauceShaoxing Wine and sesame oil

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken thigh, skinless
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 6 ginger slices
  • 1 cup boiling water, for braising the chicken

For Braising Sauce:

  • 1.5 tbsp. Shaoxing wine
  • 1.5 tbsp. naturally aged soy sauce, see notes
  • 1.5 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. turbinado sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

Instructions

  1. Gather all ingredients. Remove chicken thigh skins if needed, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Wash and rinse basil leaves and only keep the leaves and tender stems.
    Three Cup Chicken Ingredients
  2. Cut ginger into thin slices and garlic into small pieces.
  3. Make the braising sauce. Add everything under the "For Braising Sauce" in a small bowl, mix well and set aside.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat a hard anodized fry pan for 1 minute. Add ginger slices into the pan, lay chicken thigh pieces flat on the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
    Sear the chicken thigh for making Three Cup Chicken
  5. Flip the chicken pieces and cook the other side for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken to the wok or clay pot along with the juice produced during the searing process.
  7. Turn the heat to medium-high for the wok. Pour the braising sauce into the wok in a circular motion. Use a mini silicone spatula to scrape the small bowl and add to the wok.
    Cooking Three Cup Chicken
  8. Fold and mix the chicken pieces with the sauce, add about 80% of the basil leaves, cover the lid and cook for 10 minutes.
    Cooking Three Cup Chicken
  9. Turn the heat to medium, fold and mix the chicken with the sauce, add the remaining basil, cover the wok with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
    Braising Three Cup Chicken {San Bei Ji} in a Wok
  10. All done! Enjoy a delicious Three Cup Chicken.

Notes

Four tips for a perfect Three Cup Chicken:

  • Tip #1 is to sear the chicken thigh first before braising.
  • Tip #2 is to braise the chicken in a wok or clay pot
  • Tip #3 is to use ample basil
  • Tip #4 is using the turbinado sugar for cooking meat

Keep in mind that majority of the sodium from the soy sauce is left in the remaining concentrated sauce left behind, the chicken itself is actually not overly salted.

As a matter of fact, you can utilize the left over sauce to make an everyday tofu dish if you'd like to. Simply cut the tofu into bite-size cubes, add a little water, first bring it to a boil and then on low heat for 10 minutes.

I usually make about 3 lbs. chicken thighs for my family of 4 so that we have leftover for the following day. Simply triple all ingredients except for the boiling water. You still only need 1 cup of boiling water for braising.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 663Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 277mgSodium: 1903mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 61g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Leave a Comment

You may also like

Skip to Recipe