Three Cup Chicken Recipe

Three Cup Chicken, which is also known as “
Sanbeijiis a Chinese chicken dish. This dish is very popular in Taiwan. You may wonder,” Why is it called Three Cup Chicken?” The name comes from the three cups of sauces that go into the dish, which are rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. Of course this recipe has scaled the measurement down a little bit.  The idea is to have equal parts of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. It’s not a typo this recipe calls for 20 cloves of garlic! The garlic along with ginger, Serrano peppers and basil adds a great deal of flavor to the sauce. I made a few changes to the original recipe. The first change was lightly dusting the chicken with cornstarch. The second change was deep frying the chicken before putting it in the wok. Serve with white rice. Enjoy.

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
Cornstarch (for dusting, optional)
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine (or sake)
20 garlic cloves (minced)
10 thin slices of fresh ginger
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons water
2 cups fresh basil (chopped)
2 Serrano peppers (sliced, with seeds)
1 cup green onions (sliced)
Oil (if deep frying)

Cooking Instructions:

Step 1: Cut the chicken breasts into 1” chunks. Lightly dust the chicken with cornstarch. Deep fry the chicken bits in batches at 375 degrees until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Step 2: Heat sesame oil in your wok on medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger and Serrano peppers. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Step 3: In a bowl stir together rice wine, soy sauce and sugar. Pour into the wok. Put chicken bits into the wok and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water in a measuring cup. Pour into the sauce and stir until the sauce becomes somewhat thick.

Step 4: Add green onions and basil. Cook for 2 minutes and serve.
(Makes 4 Servings)


19 Responses to “Three Cup Chicken Recipe”

  1. Russell — March 30, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

    Does it taste just as good without frying it?

  2. Bobby — March 30, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    Russell – Might actually taste better. I believe traditionally the chicken is simmer in the sauce. I just prefer to deep fry everything 🙂

  3. Stella — March 30, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

    Hmm… I’ve never seen three cup chicken that’s been battered and fried before. (I grew up in Taiwan.)

  4. Bobby — March 30, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    Stella – I just enjoy a little crisp to my chicken bits 🙂 By no means is the batter authentic.

  5. HoneyB — March 30, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    This is one I definitely have to try. Looks and sounds really yummy!

  6. Lisa — March 30, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

    I will so be making this this weekend!!!

  7. Ivy — March 30, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

    Although the chicken sounds delicious I have never used sesame oil or rice wine. Do you actually add 20 cloves of garlic?

  8. Ragne — March 31, 2009 @ 4:31 am

    This chicken looks so good and very nice pics. Great step by step easy to use manual 🙂
    Thank you so much!

  9. Melissa — March 31, 2009 @ 5:54 am

    I’ve had this many times and it is fantastic. Made me realize how much I love garlic and how great simple ingredients can be.

  10. Fanny — March 31, 2009 @ 7:48 am

    Taiwanese recipe didn’t require to fry the chicken. By the way it looks great.

  11. Bunny — March 31, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

    I love all the recipes you make!!

  12. bella — March 31, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

    I’m with you on deep frying everything! I just bought chicken breasts especially for this recipe 🙂

  13. Victor — April 2, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    I’m pretty sure that your sanbeiji tastes delicious but my feeling is that you don’t really need 20 cloves of garlic. I might be wrong.

    I have a sanbeiji recipe on my blog also, my Taiwanese friend uses only 4 cloves with unfried chicken.

  14. Elizabeth — April 2, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

    I am sure this will be just as delicious as all your other recipes have been. Looking forward to trying it!

  15. Chef Colin — April 3, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    Definately a keeper!
    I do something similar but I dust the chicken, or any meat for that matter in tempura flour. I think it brings more to the party flavor wise than cornstarch. But to be honest I have a bias against the stuff.

    You can easily augment this reciepe with honey or orange juice concentrate for different flavors. A very versitile reciepe, thank you!

  16. Do Kieu Lan — April 10, 2009 @ 2:28 am

    Pls tell me the following three cups:
    1 cup of Soya sauce.
    1 cup of Sugar
    1 cup of Chinese wine
    is that correct?
    in your recipe was mentioned:
    1/3 cup sesame oil
    1/3 cup soy sauce
    1/3 cup rice wine (or sake)
    which one is more authentic and traditional?
    Thanks for email me or reply on this site.
    Culinary Regards,

  17. Bobby — April 10, 2009 @ 5:46 am

    Do Kieu Lan – Traditionally it is

    1 cup soy sauce
    1 cup rice wine
    1 cup sesame oil

    I hope this helps.

  18. Walt — October 8, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    Hi Bobby!

    I just went out to the grocery stores in my area and found that Basil is unreasonably and prohibitively expense around here right now. Is there anything I can substitute for the basil or are there any modifications I should make to recipe overall if I opt to leave the basil out altogether? Thanks for the help and all of the great recipes!


  19. Bobby — October 9, 2009 @ 5:33 am

    Walt- I think just leaving the basil out of the recipe will be fine. I hope this helps. Thanks.

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