Three Cup Chicken

published Dec 12, 2023
Three Cup Chicken Recipe

This Taiwanese dish boasts a sweet, savory, umami-rich flavor, thanks to its hallmark trio: soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.


Prep10 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 35 minutes

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Overhead shot of three cup chicken served in a green bowl and a small bowl full of rice on the side.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

If I had to pick one of my favorite Chinese and Taiwanese dishes to cook at home, it would easily be three cup chicken, also known as San Bei Ji (三杯鸡). The dish features savory braised chicken with aromatics like ginger, garlic, and dried chili peppers. It’s perfect served with steamed white rice for soaking up the salty, umami-rich sauce.

The original recipe calls for one cup each of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil, which is how the dish got its name. Many recipes follow this basic formula, although it’s common to adjust the seasonings to suit personal preferences. My recipe introduces some acidic and sweet flavors, while keeping the overall flavor profile similar. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

Ingredients You’ll Need for Three Cup Chicken

  • Fresh aromatics: Ginger, scallions, and garlic help buildful a flavorful base. 
  • Dried chili peppers: Add a welcoming heat to the dish. If you can’t find them, you can add a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes, but having a bag of dried chili peppers can be super useful, especially if you want to add a subtle amount of heat to other Asian dishes.
  • Shaoxing wine: A traditional Chinese cooking wine made by fermenting glutinous rice, water, and wheat-based yeast. As the name may suggest, it’s traditionally made in Shaoxing, a city in China’s Zhejiang Province, known for rice wine production. It brings a  rich umami flavor. 
  • Dark brown sugar: Glazes the chicken as it simmers in the sauce. 
  • Black vinegar: Adds a depth of flavor and a slight acidity to the dish. Its nuanced, not-so-aggressive acidity balances the salty and sweet flavors in the sauce. 
  • Soy sauce: I recommend using two types of soy sauce: light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce seasons the chicken, while dark soy sauce adds that dark, caramel-like color. Dark soy sauce is more intense in flavor and saltiness, so a little bit is fine, especially with light soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, you can use regular light soy sauce, but the color won’t be as dark brown. 
  • Toasted sesame oil: I’m using toasted sesame oil in two stages: to fry the aromatics and as part of the sauce. It adds a nutty flavor that isn’t overpowering. 
  • Cornstarch: Coating the chicken with cornstarch crisps it slightly and thickens the sauce. 
  • Chicken wings and drumettes: These are quick to cook, and since they’re bone-in, it lends a deeper flavor to the final sauce.. 
  • Thai basil: A shower of fresh Thai basil at the end makes a big difference. Its slightly anise-y and herbaceous flavor instantly brightens the whole dish. 

If You’re Making Three Cup Chicken, a Few Tips

  • Don’t rush cooking the chicken. Take the time to brown the chicken before adding the sauce, which brings more flavor. Then, once the sauce is added to the pot, keep simmering until the sauce is reduced and thickened, so that the chicken has absorbed the flavors.
  • The more Thai basil, the better. It brightens everything up while adding a fantastic herbaceous taste. Don’t skip this step!
  • Make it as saucy (or not saucy) as you want. If the sauce is reduced too much, you can always add more water to make it saucier. If you don’t like the dish being too saucy, you can continue reducing the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency. Don’t forget to serve the dish with lots of rice either way. 

Three Cup Chicken Recipe

This Taiwanese dish boasts a sweet, savory, umami-rich flavor, thanks to its hallmark trio: soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info



  1. Peel 1 (2-inch) piece ginger. Thinly cut lengthwise into planks. Stack a few planks and thinly cut lengthwise into long matchsticks, then repeat until all the ginger is cut into thin matchsticks. Thinly slice 5 garlic cloves. Trim and cut 4 medium scallions crosswise into 3 pieces each.

  2. Place 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of the toasted sesame oil in a liquid measuring cup or medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Pat 2 1/2 pounds chicken wing flats and drumettes dry with paper towels and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and toss until evenly coated.

  4. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil and the chicken in an even layer. Sear until the chicken is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

  5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil to the same skillet (no need to wipe out) and let heat for a few seconds. Add the ginger, garlic, scallions, and 2 dried Sichuan or Chinese peppers. Stir-fry until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate to the pan. Pour in the sauce and toss to combine. Arrange the chicken so it is submerged in the sauce.

  6. Simmer, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as needed, until the sauce is reduced by half and coats the chicken, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pick the leaves from 1 medium bunch Thai basil.

  7. Turn off the heat. Scatter the basil leaves over the chicken and toss until the leaves are wilted slightly. Serve the chicken and sauce with cooked white rice.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.