Chinese 3 Cups Chicken Recipe: A Beginner Guide for All – Seaco Online
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Chinese 3 Cups Chicken Recipe: A Beginner Guide for All

If you're a fan of Chinese cuisine, then you've probably heard of Three Cup Chicken. This classic dish is a staple in both Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine and is known for its bold and flavourful taste. The name "Three Cup Chicken" refers to the equal ratio of three key ingredients that create the sauce: rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Three cups of chicken simmer in a traditional Chinese wok, surrounded by aromatic herbs and spices. Steam rises from the bubbling sauce, creating a tantalizing scene

While the exact origin of Three Cup Chicken is unclear, it is believed to have originated in the Jiangxi province of China. According to legend, a famous general named Wen Tianxiang created the dish during the Song Dynasty and named it after the three cups of wine he drank while enjoying the meal. Today, Three Cup Chicken is enjoyed all over the world and is a favourite among both locals and tourists alike.

To make Three Cup Chicken, you'll need a few essential ingredients, including chicken, garlic, ginger, basil leaves, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The chicken is typically cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked in a wok until it is crispy and golden brown. The garlic and ginger are then added, followed by the sauce ingredients, which are simmered until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce has thickened. The dish is then finished off with a generous amount of fresh basil leaves, which add a fragrant and herbaceous flavour to the dish.

Key Takeaways

  • Three Cup Chicken is a classic Chinese dish made with chicken, garlic, ginger, basil leaves, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
  • The dish originated in the Jiangxi province of China and is believed to have been created during the Song Dynasty.
  • Seafood can be used as a substitute for chicken in this dish. Shrimp, squid, and clams are popular choices that work well with the flavour profile of the sauce.

History and Origin of Three Cup Chicken

A chef mixes soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine in a bowl. He adds chicken pieces and simmers them in a wok with ginger and garlic

Three Cup Chicken, also known as San Bei Ji, is a popular dish in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine. The name of the dish refers to the recipe used to make the sauce, which typically includes a cup each of rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The exact origin of the dish is unclear, with some sources suggesting that it originated in Jiangxi province in Southern China over 700 years ago, while others claim that it is a Taiwanese specialty.

According to legend, Three Cup Chicken was introduced to Taiwan by Hakka settlers who arrived on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries from China. The dish quickly became popular in Taiwan and is now considered an integral part of Taiwanese cuisine.

Traditionally, Three Cup Chicken is made with chicken, but it can also be made with other meats such as pork or seafood. If you are using seafood, you can try using shrimp, squid, or scallops to add a unique twist to the dish.

To make Three Cup Chicken, you will need to marinate the meat in the sauce for at least 30 minutes before cooking it. The dish is typically served with steamed rice and vegetables, such as bok choy or broccoli.

In summary, Three Cup Chicken is a delicious and flavourful dish that has a rich history and has become an iconic part of Taiwanese cuisine. Whether you are cooking it with chicken or seafood, it is sure to be a hit at your next dinner party.

Essential Ingredients

A wok sizzles with 3 cups of Chinese chicken recipe ingredients. Soy sauce, ginger, and garlic fill the air

When it comes to making Three Cup Chicken, there are a few essential ingredients that you will need to have on hand. These ingredients are what give the dish its signature flavour and aroma. In this section, we will take a closer look at these ingredients and discuss why they are so important.

Chicken Selection

The first and most important ingredient in this recipe is, of course, the chicken. You can use any part of the chicken you like, but we recommend using bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces for the most flavourful results. Chicken wings, thighs, drumsticks, and breasts all work well in this recipe.

Key Flavours

The key flavours in this recipe come from the combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine. These three ingredients are what give the dish its unique flavour and aroma. We recommend using good-quality soy sauce and sesame oil for the best results. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry can be used in place of rice wine if needed.

Additional Elements

In addition to the key flavours, there are a few other ingredients that are essential to this recipe. Garlic, ginger, and scallions are all used to add depth and complexity to the dish. Thai basil leaves are used to add a fresh, herbaceous flavour to the dish.

If you like a bit of heat in your food, you can also add some chillies to the dish. Use fresh or dried chilies depending on your preference. Sugar can be added to balance out the flavours and bring a touch of sweetness to the dish.

Seafood can also be used in this recipe as a variation. For example, you can use prawns or squid instead of chicken to make a seafood version of this dish. However, it is important to note that the cooking time and method may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Cooking Techniques

A wok sizzles over high heat, as a chef tosses marinated chicken with aromatic Chinese spices and sauces, creating a mouthwatering aroma

Preparation Methods

To prepare Three Cup Chicken, you will need to cut the chicken into large pieces, bone-in, skin-on. You can either cut the chicken into 3-inch, bone-in, skin-on pieces or use deboned chicken thigh or breast meat.

Before cooking, you should marinate the chicken with baking soda and cornstarch to make it crispy. You can also use seafood, such as shrimp or squid, as a substitute for chicken.

To infuse the oil with flavour, you should fry the aromatics, such as ginger, garlic, and dried chilli peppers, in sesame oil and vegetable oil. You can also use lard for a richer flavour.

Cooking Equipment

You can use a wok, a clay pot, or a large skillet for cooking Three Cup Chicken. A wok is ideal for stir-frying the chicken, while a clay pot is perfect for braising it.

To ensure the chicken is cooked evenly, you should cook it in one layer. You can use a lid to cover the wok or skillet when braising the chicken.

To make the sauce, you should mix equal parts of soy sauce, cooking sake or mirin, and Chinese rice wine. You can also add sugar or honey to balance the flavour.

To braise the chicken, you should simmer it in the sauce until it is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. You can also reheat the chicken in the sauce to enhance the flavour.

In conclusion, Three Cup Chicken is a fragrant and flavourful dish that requires simple preparation and cooking techniques. You can experiment with different ingredients and cooking methods to create your own homemade version of this classic Chinese dish.

Serving and Pairing

Three cups chicken dish on a round plate with chopsticks. A teapot and small cups for serving. A bowl of steamed rice on the side


Three-cups chicken is a versatile dish that pairs well with a variety of sides. Here are some suggestions for accompaniments:

  • Steamed rice: The classic pairing for three cups chicken is steamed white rice. The rice helps to soak up the delicious sauce and makes for a satisfying meal.

  • Noodles: If you're in the mood for something different, try serving your three cups chicken with noodles. Egg noodles or rice noodles work well, and you can either serve them alongside the chicken or toss them with the sauce for a noodle dish.

  • Vegetables: To add some extra nutrition to your meal, serve your three cups chicken with some steamed or stir-fried vegetables. Bok choy, broccoli, and green beans are all good choices.

  • Seafood: For a twist on the classic recipe, try adding some seafood to your three cups chicken. Shrimp or squid work well, and you can either cook them separately and add them to the finished dish, or cook them together with the chicken.

Storing Tips

If you have leftovers of your three cups chicken, you can store them in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat, simply microwave or reheat on the stove with a little extra sauce.

If you want to freeze your three cups chicken, it's best to do so without the rice or noodles. Simply store the chicken and sauce in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and then reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

Remember, the longer you store your three cups chicken, the more the flavours will meld together, so it may taste even better the next day!

Variations and Substitutes

A table set with ingredients: chicken, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and vegetables. A wok sizzling with stir-fried chicken and vegetables

Alternative Ingredients

If you're looking to switch things up with your 3 cups chicken recipe, there are a few alternative ingredients you can try. For example, instead of chicken drumsticks, you could use chicken chunks or even chicken legs. This will give you a different texture and flavour profile.

In terms of sauces, you can use a combination of light soy sauce and dark soy sauce to give the dish a richer and deeper flavour. Shaoxing rice wine is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, but if you can't find it, you can use Chinese rice wine or Chinese cooking wine as a substitute. Brown sugar or rock sugar can be used instead of white sugar to add a different sweetness to the dish. Lastly, ground white pepper can be used in place of white pepper.

Vegetarian Options

If you're looking for a vegetarian alternative to 3 cups chicken, you can use tofu instead of chicken. Simply cut the tofu into small cubes and follow the same recipe as you would for chicken. You can also add vegetables such as mushrooms, eggplant, or bell peppers to the dish for added flavour and nutrition.

Proposed seafood option: If you're a seafood lover, you can substitute the chicken with prawns or squid. The seafood will add a unique flavour to the dish. You can also add vegetables such as snow peas or bok choy to the dish for added nutrition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Three cups of chicken ingredients arranged on a kitchen counter. Chinese spices, raw chicken, and cooking utensils are visible

What Ingredients are Essential for an Authentic Three Cups Chicken Dish?

To make an authentic three cups chicken dish, you will need three key ingredients: rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. These are the three cups of the recipe's name. You will also need chicken, garlic, ginger, and basil leaves. If you want to add vegetables to the dish, you can use mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions. Seafood can also be used as a substitute for chicken, such as shrimp or squid.

How do You Achieve the Perfect Balance of Flavours in a Three Cup Chicken Recipe?

To achieve the perfect balance of flavours in a three cup chicken recipe, you need to make sure that you use the right amount of each ingredient. The ratio of the three cups (rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil) is important, as too much of one ingredient can overpower the others. It is also important to cook the chicken until it is tender and juicy, and to let it simmer in the sauce for a few minutes to allow the flavours to meld together.

Can You Suggest a Simple Method for Preparing Three Cups Chicken at Home?

To prepare three cups chicken at home, you will need to marinate the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil for at least 30 minutes. Then, you will need to stir-fry the chicken with garlic, ginger, and basil leaves until it is cooked through. Finally, you will need to add the marinade to the pan and let the chicken simmer in the sauce for a few minutes before serving.

What are the Key Differences Between Taiwanese and Chinese Style Three Cups Chicken?

The main difference between Taiwanese and Chinese style three cups chicken is the use of basil leaves. Taiwanese-style three cups chicken uses Thai basil, while Chinese-style three cups chicken uses Chinese basil. Taiwanese-style three cups chicken is also sweeter than Chinese-style three cups chicken, as it uses more sugar in the sauce.

How Can You Adjust the Traditional Three Cups Chicken Recipe for a Healthier Version?

To make a healthier version of three cups chicken, you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. You can also reduce the amount of soy sauce and sugar in the recipe to lower the sodium and calorie content. Additionally, you can add more vegetables to the dish, such as bell peppers or onions, to increase the nutritional value.

What are Some Common Side Dishes to Serve with Three Cups Chicken?

Some common side dishes to serve with three cups chicken include steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables, and Chinese-style pickles. You can also serve the dish with a simple salad or a bowl of soup. Seafood dishes such as shrimp stir-fry or squid salad can also be served as side dishes.