Three Cup Chicken

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞; san bei ji) is a popular Taiwanese dish and one I’ve really grown to love in the last few years.

“Three Cup” refers to the fact that the chicken is cooked with three main ingredients in equal ratios: black sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine. Basil is thrown in at the end, giving the dish a very aromatic finish.

I debated whether or not to post about my first attempt, as it doesn’t quite look like the restaurant version, though it tastes delicious. The dish is often served bubbling in a clay pot. It’s also usually much darker. I used light soy sauce, which I believe is why my chicken came out such a light brown. Next time I’ll use dark soy sauce.


I’ve had difficulty finding a good version of three cup chicken at restaurants lately. A lot of restaurants make it too sweet or too salty. It has such a basic ingredient list, I’m not quite sure there are so many failed versions out there. So I decided to try making it myself.

Normally, bone-in chopped chicken pieces are used, but I hate having to deal with the bones so I used boneless thighs. I also should have used a little more basil, but I was relying on my Thai basil plant in my garden and it hasn’t been growing as fast as I hoped it would have by now.

This dish came out tasty and flavorful. Next time I’ll remember to use a dark soy sauce and more basil so it comes out as mouth-watering as the restaurant version.

Recipe adapted from Appetite for China.

Three Cup Chicken


1 lb boneless chicken thighs, chopped (you can also use bone-in drumsticks but you'll need about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 tbsp black sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 ginger slices
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar (you may need to add slightly more if your dark soy sauce has high sodium content)
1 cup fresh Thai basil


1. In a wok or clay pot heat up sesame oil. Add in garlic until the aroma of the garlic comes out. Add in chicken, cooking at high heat so that the exterior turns slightly crisp and brown. Once chicken is just about cooked, add in ginger, soy sauce, rice wine and sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
2. Add in fresh basil at the end and cook just until the basil is wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Serve with rice.

Recipe adapted from Appetite for China

All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.

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2 comments on “Three Cup Chicken”

  1. Wow, never heard of this and I always have most of these ingredients on hand except rice wine. I never have this product but always have rice vinegar. What do you think, will it work?

    • hmm, i think it should be okay though they aren’t exactly the same. I usually use Shaoxing cooking wine. If you have sake, that might work too. I’ve also seen recipe that use dry sherry in place of rice wine.

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