Nov 5, 2015

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
The name for this Taiwanese dish actually comes from the original recipe for this dish that called for equal cups of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil.

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Three cup chicken is an easy recipe made by stir-frying chicken thighs in a syrupy sauce made with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil with garlic, ginger, green onion, peppers and basil. The savory dish pairs perfectly with this garlic crab fried rice dish, two staples from one of my favorite LA restaurants, ROC.

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

About Three Cup Chicken

After having this at a restaurant I just had to look up the origins of the name. The name for this Taiwanese dish actually comes from the original recipe for this dish. The original recipe called for equal cups of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. The sauce will reduce more, you want to get a slightly thick, almost sticky sauce that coats the chicken.

There are debates as to why it called for these measurements; whether it was because recipes were passed down through spoken word rather than written down so it was easier to remember or because in China during the 13th Century a guard made this dish using limited resources for a war hero’s last meal prior to his execution.  

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Chicken – I use chicken thighs in this recipe because they are both a cheaper cut as well as extremely flavorful. As they are cooked in the sauce the dark meat remains tender and moist.
  • Soy sauce – I use reduced sodium soy sauce so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe, adding more if needed.
  • Mirin – Mirin is a type of rice wine used as a seasoning. It can be found at an Asian market or online. If you can’t find mirin I recommend substituting with a dry sherry or dry white wine like chardonnay.
  • Sesame oil – Sesame oil is made from pressing raw sesame seeds. It’s nutty flavor and high smoke point (410ºF) make it a great cooking oil and flavoring for dishes. Darker toasted sesame oil has a stronger flavor and is great for finishing dishes while light sesame oil is more neutral in flavor. I have used both in this recipe though toasted sesame oil will give it a much stronger sesame flavor.
  • Dried red peppers – This dish is traditionally made with whole dried peppers. The peppers flavor the dish without adding an overpowering spice since they are left whole. If you can find them, use Tien Tsin chili peppers also known as Chinese red peppers. If you can’t find them substitute chiles de arbol (a similar size) or 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  • Thai basil – While Thai basil has a unique flavor, it can be difficult to find at many American grocery stores. If you can’t find it, simply substitute with regular basil.
three cup chicken recipe cooking with cocktail rings

How to Make Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

  1. Cook aromatics. Heat a wok over medium-high heat, add the peanut oil, garlic and ginger. Stir constantly until garlic is golden brown, about 30 seconds.
  2. Cook the chicken. Add the chicken, stirring, until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sauce. Next, add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and brown sugar.
  4. Reduce the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, about 15 minutes. If the chicken is cooked through, but the sauce has not reduced enough, remove the chicken from the wok and set aside in a bowl; cover to keep warm. Continue to cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thickened to the desired consistency.
  5. Add the garnishes. Return the chicken to the sauce, stirring to combine then add the red peppers, scallions and basil.
  6. Serve. To serve, divide the chicken among plates and serve with a side of white rice.
three cup chicken side view recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

three cup chicken cooking with cocktail rings

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

Print Pin
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Mirin rice wine
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 dried Tien Tsin chili peppers (or chiles de arbol or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped Thai basil leaves

Instructions:

  • Heat a wok or large cast iron pan over medium-high heat, add the peanut oil, garlic and ginger. Stir constantly until garlic is golden brown, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken, stirring, until the chicken is browned on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and brown sugar.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, about 15 minutes. (If the chicken is cooked through, but the sauce has not reduced enough, remove the chicken from the wok and set aside in a bowl; cover to keep warm.)
  • Continue to cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thickened to the desired consistency.
  • Return the chicken to the sauce, stirring to combine then add the red peppers, scallions and basil.
  • To serve, divide the chicken among plates and serve with a side of white rice.

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  1. I’ve made this three times now and it keeps getting better! As someone who didn’t really cook until after college, this recipe was really easy to follow. Now that I’ve made this, I’m going to tackle more of your recipes!