Three Cup Chicken

27 Jun

three cup chicken

Here’s a follow-up to my post on Monday – another recipe that hinges on the unique flavor of Thai basil. This recipe, however, is a popular Taiwanese one. Similar to pound cake and 3-2-1 stir fry, the recipe is in the name here. Three cup chicken was traditionally made using a nearby tea cup to measure out equal amounts of soy sauce, shaoxing cooking wine, and sesame oil for the extremely flavorful sauce. Of course, it’s not just those ingredients that make this dish so tasty. You may notice the seemingly ridiculous amounts of garlic, ginger, and Thai basil called for here and be tempted to cut back. Don’t; you’ll thank me. If you don’t have much tolerance for spice, feel free to cut back on the bird’s eye chiles, but leave the rest be. I was amazed at the tangy, sweet, and spicy (yet not overwhelming) flavor in this dish. Definitely best served over rice (or cauliflower rice) to soak up any extra sauce.

Three Cup Chicken (adapted from Not Eating Out in New York)
Yield: 4 – 6 servings


  • 1/3 cup soy sauce*
  • 1/3 cup shaoxing cooking wine
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 20 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 20 slices of fresh ginger
  • 3 bird’s eye chiles, minced
  • 3 bird’s eye chiles, whole
  • 1 whole chicken or 3 lbs chicken breasts, thighs, or legs, cut into roughly 1″ – 2″ pieces**
  • 2 cups Thai basil leaves
  • 2 scallions, green parts, sliced

*As always, using a good-quality soy sauce is best – personally, I like Kimlan “Super Special” soy sauce – but you can also do okay with the low-sodium version of a more ubiquitous brand, such as Kikkoman. If you can’t eat gluten, make sure you’re using a gluten-free soy sauce.
**Bone-in will give you the best flavor.


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup shaoxing cooking wine, and 3 Tbsp sugar, then set aside.
  2. In a large wok or sautee pan, heat 1/3 cup toasted sesame oil with 20 cloves garlic, smashed, 20 slices of fresh ginger, 3 bird’s eye chiles, minced, and 3 bird’s eye chiles, whole over medium-high heat until starting to sizzle.
  3. Add 1 whole chicken or 3 lbs chicken breasts, thighs, or legs, cut into roughly 1″ – 2″ pieces, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides.
  4. Pour in the sauce, bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover (or leave uncovered if you’d like less sauce in the final dish), and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, and stir in 2 cups Thai basil leaves and 2 scallions, green parts, sliced. Cook until the basil wilts and becomes fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

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