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Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

by Shirley
Published: Last Updated on
Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

Three Cup Tofu or San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐 in Chinese features firm tofu blanched and pan fried first and then braised in a tasty sauce made of three traditional Chinese liquid condiments. The “Three Cup” refers to soy sauce, Shaoxing 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 yummy 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.

Old-fashioned “Three Cup” dishes use an equal amount of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and sesame oil, and typically add no water. I usually go with old-fashioned way, but cautiously dial down the overall usage of the soy sauce for a healthier cooking.

Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}
Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

What is Three Cup Sauce made of?

Three traditional and ancient Chinese liquid condiments, namely soy sauce, Shaoxing 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 Tofu?

Ingredients for Three Cup Tofu
Ingredients for Three Cup Tofu

For Tofu, original flavored, firm Tofu will do. You will also need a bunch of fresh basil, 5 garlic cloves and a small piece of ginger.

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

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

For sugar, sugar in the raw is my go-to cooking sugar. Brown rock sugar also works great.

How to make Tofu tastier?

Three tips to make a more delicious Tofu.

The first is to cut Tofu into about 1/4 inch thick bite size slices

This way, it is easier for the Tofu to absorb the seasoning.

Cut Tofu into 1/4 inch thick bite size for Three Cup Tofu
Cut Tofu into 1/4 inch thick bite size for Three Cup Tofu

The second is to blanch tofu slices to tenderize it for a tastier Three Cup Tofu

Add water to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add tofu slices, wait for it to reach a boil again and turn the simmer and cook for 10 minutes. This will soften and tenderize tofu.

The Third is to pan-fry and brown the Tofu slices before braising

Pan Fried Tofu for making Three Cup Tofu
Pan Fried Tofu before braising

Turn the heat to medium-high and heat a hard-anodized fry-pan for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoonful of avocado oil and use a mini silicone spatula to spread out evenly across the pan. Pan-fry each side of tofu for 2 minutes, or until browned.

How to make a perfectly delicious Three Cup Tofu?

Three tips to keep in mind so that you can cook Three Cup Tofu like a pro every time!

The first is to make the delicious Three Cup Sauce.

The second is to prep the tofu before braising.

Last but not least, add about three quarters of total basil initially, but wait until 3 minutes before cooking is done to add the rest. This is mainly for the presentation, to add a bit of green color to the dish.

Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}
Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

Like tofu? Remember to check out other delicious tofu dishes:

Pan Fried everyday tofu

Stir Fried Tofu Skin with Squash

Celery with Tofu and Peanuts Stir Fry {芹菜炒香干}

Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

Three Cup Tofu Recipe {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Three Cup Tofu or San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐 in Chinese features firm tofu pan fried first and then braised in soy sauceShaoxing Wine and sesame oil. Fresh basil is absolutely the essential highlight of the dish. Super delicious and super easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. firm tofu
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 10 slices of ginger, about 12 g
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil, avocado oil is preferred, for pan fry tofu
  • 1/4 tsp cooking oil, avocado oil or canola oil, for stir fry garlic and ginger

For Three Cup Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. naturally aged soy sauce {Jiang You}, see notes
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar, sugar in the raw or brown rock sugar is preferred

Instructions

Prep Work:

  1. Gather all ingredients. Combine everything under the "For Three Cup Sauce" into a small bowl and mix well with a mini whisk.
    Ingredients for Three Cup Tofu
  2. Cut ginger into thin julienne slices, and cut garlic into small pieces.
  3. For basil, wash thoroughly and keep the tender parts including leaves and soft stems.
  4. Cut firm tofu into about 1/4 inch thin bite sizes.
    Cut Tofu into 1/4 inch thick bite size for Three Cup Tofu
  5. Fill a small saucepan with water, about three quarters full. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil.
  6. Add tofu slices, gently mix so that tofu is immersed evenly under the water, cover the saucepan with a lid and wait for it to reach a boil again, about 3 minutes.
    Blanching Tofu Slices
  7. Turn the heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, remove the tofu from the saucepan using a stainless steel spider skimmer and set aside.
    Freshly Blanched Tofu Slices

Pan Fry Tofu:

  1. Turn the heat to medium and heat a 12-inch hard anodized fry pan for 2 minutes.
  2. Add 1 tbsp to the pan, use a mini silicone spatula to spread out evenly across the pan.
  3. Lay tofu slices flat on the pan and cook for 2 minutes. It is OK if there are small overlapping areas.
    Pan Fried Tofu for making Three Cup Tofu
  4. Flip the tofu using a slotted turner and cook the other side of tofu for 2 minutes.
    Pan Fried Tofu for making Three Cup Tofu
  5. Remove tofu from the frying pan and set aside.

Braise Three Cup Tofu:

  1. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat a wok for 1 minute.
  2. Add 1/4 tsp canola oil into the wok, use a mini spatula to spread out evenly across the wok. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry for about 15 seconds or till fragrant
  3. Add pan fried tofu into the wok. Pour the "Three Cup" sauce into the wok in a circular motion. Use a mini spatula to scrape the sugar if needed. Add about three quarters of basil.
    Braising "Three Cup" Tofu
  4. Gently mix everything together using a slotted turner, cover the wok with a lid and bring it to a boil.
  5. Turn the heat to simmer and cook for 7 minutes.
  6. Add the remaining basil, fold into the tofu and sauce, cover the wok with a lid and cook for another 3 minutes.
    Three Cup Tofu {San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐}
  7. All done! Turn off the heat and serve hot.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 807mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 18g

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

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2 comments

m k August 27, 2021 - 8:31 am

Sounds tasty but I would be more concerned about the empty calories in the oil rather than the sodium in soy sauce. Over 100 calories per tbs for oil.

Reply
Shirley August 27, 2021 - 8:55 am

Good catch. Somehow forgot to calculate the nutrition. It is fixed now.

Reply

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