San Bei Ji(三杯鷄), or Three Cup Chicken, is a classic Taiwanese dish made by cooking chicken with sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. The chicken is cooked in the sauce until tender before the sauce is reduced to a glaze that coats the chicken.

Three cup chicken, or San Bei Ji,  gets its glorious mahogany color (and its name), from the three ingredients it's cooked in. An easy Taiwanese favorite!

“Three Cup” refers to the base recipe, which is supposed to include equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine. Ironically, most cooks these days put their own spin on it, changing the ratios, or adding other ingredients, like scallions, chili peppers or black pepper.

Sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine are the three ingredients that three cup chicken gets its name from.

For my Three Cup Chicken, I like adding a little extra rice wine for the flavor and sweetness it imparts. The additional liquid allows you to cook the chicken for a bit longer, making it more tender, without burning it. I also like to add a bit of brown sugar, which balances out the salty soy sauce and gives the glaze a luminous sheen. If you happen to have some kecap manis in your pantry, you can swap the dark soy sauce for that and omit the sugar.

For the soy sauce, I like to use a 50:50 mix of dark soy sauce and regular soy sauce. Chinese dark soy sauce is viscous and almost black in color with an intense flavor. By regular soy sauce, I mean your garden variety Kikkoman, it’s still dark in color, but has a milder taste. This give the chicken a glorious mahogany color, without overwhelming it with the flavor of fermented soybeans.

As for other ingredients, I add a ton of garlic and ginger to my Three Cup Chicken at the beginning for flavor. I like to leave the garlic in big chunks as this prevents it from burning while you’re browning the chicken and provides sweet creamy bombs of garlic bestrewn amongst the savory chicken. Then, I finish the San Bei Ji off with a handful of Thai basil for a bit of freshness. If Thai basil isn’t your thing (or you can’t find it), scallions also make for a delicious addition with the white parts being added at the beginning and the greens added at the end.

This ultra-flavorful Three Cup Chicken is an Easy Taiwanese dish that comes together in minutes.

I usually pass on chili peppers for my Three Cup Chicken as the heat makes it too similar to Pad Krapow Gai and it makes me want to top it with a fried egg. Instead I’ll occasionally add some coarse cracked black pepper if I’m feeling feisty.

By the way, Three Cup Chicken is the perfect addition to a biandang (Taiwanese version of a bento) as it makes for a super flavorful accompaniment for the rice, so make a bit extra and take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day!

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)“Three Cup” refers to the base recipe, which is supposed to include equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine. Ironically, most cooks these days put their own spin on it, changing the ratios, or adding other ingredients, like scallions, chili peppers or black pepper. For my Three Cup Chicken, I like adding a … Continue reading “Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)”

Summary

  • CourseEntree
  • CuisineTaiwanese
  • Yield4 servings
  • Cooking Time20 minutes
  • Preperation Time5 minutes
  • Total Time25 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons
toasted sesame oil
20 grams
ginger (cut into a thick julienne)
28 grams
garlic (halve the cloves if they are large)
560 grams
boneless skin-on chicken thighs
1/4 cup
Chinese rice wine (mijiu or shaoxing)
1 tablespoon
dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon
soy sauce
2 teaspoons
brown sugar
10 grams
Thai basil (leaves only)

Steps

  1. Start your Three Cup Chicken by frying the garlic and ginger in sesame oil.
    Heat a large pan or wok until hot. Add the sesame oil, ginger and garlic and fry until fragrant, but don't let it brown.
  2. Brown the skin-side of the chicken.
    Add the chicken in a single layer, skin-side down and fry until the skin is well browned.
  3. The chicken is browned on the skin-side in seasme oil.

    Flip the chicken over, and then add the rice wine, dark soy sauce, regular soy sauce, and sugar. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender, flipping the chicken over a few times as it cooks.

  4. Reduce the sauce to a thick glaze to coat your Three Cup Chicken.
    Remove the lid and turn up the heat. Reduce the liquid into a thick sauce.
  5. Thai Basil gets added to the end for a bit of freshness.
    Add the Thai basil leaves and toss to coat. Serve the Three Cup Chicken with rice.