3 cup chicken is a classic Taiwanese dish and I would go as far as saying it’s probably Taiwan’s national dish. Although, the recipe actually originated from the Jiangxu province in China. After I tried this dish for the first time, I understoond straight away why it is so loved. It quickly became a firm favourite of mine.
The history of this dish…
The history of 3 cup chicken goes way back to the 13th century when the Mongolians conquered China. There was this guy called Wen Tian Xiang and he was known to be a hero of the Southern Song Dynasty (1236 AD – 1283 AD). Wen was captured and was to be excuted. One of the prison officer at the place where Wen was being held was from the same province as Wen and he also admired him as well. So he cooked 3 cup chicken for Wen’s last meal.
The dish made it’s way to Taiwan via the Hakkah people who were escaping China at this time. It was the Taiwanese who localised the original three ingredients with 1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup wine and 1 cup sesame oil. I can’t find what was the quantity of chicken used. But I’m guessing it would be one whole chicken.
The three main ingredients used gives this dish a truly unique flavour. Providing a good balance of sweetness and saltiness. Then there are the other ingredients such as the chillies to add a bit of spiceness and the basil to add a bit of bitterness.
If you asked 20 Taiwanese people how to cook this dish then you will receive 20 different recipes. Everyone will give their two pennies worth about the way this dish should be cooked.
Some prefer the dish to have a little bit of sauce as it’s very fragrant and some will totally disagree and believe there should be absolutely no sauce at all. Do you get the picture? Don’t ask a Taiwanese how this dish should be cooked – just don’t ask! 🙂
One thing for sure – You do not add 1 cup of anything. Who in their right mind would add 1 cup of oil? Unless you want your arteries to be blocked with cholesterol! It will also be insane to add 1 cup of soy sauce. You’ll be dying of thirst, not for just one day but maybe for the whole week! In regards to the wine – too much wine is never quite enough (only kidding!).
The way to cook this dish is to let it simmer away for all the ingredients to merge nicely together and for the sauce to reduce to absolutely nothing. What is left is chicken covered in a sticky coating.
If you cook this dish then just remember you’re essentially cooking a dish that is 716 years old. How cool is that? Happy cooking! 🙂
- Gluten-free: Use dry sherry instead of shaoxing wine
- Child friendly: You don’t have to use chilli with this dish
- You can use Thai red chilli if you like
Step 1 – Add the sesame oil and fry the garlic, ginger and chillies on medium heat for a few minutes
Step 2 – Add the chicken and ensure it is covered with the oil and cook until it is browned on all sides
Step 3 – Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, wine, sugar and give it a good stir
Step 4 – lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has reduced (approx 15 mins)
Step 5 – Add the basil and cook for a further few minutes
Step 6 – Serve immediately
- 2 tbsp of sesame oil
- 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 1 cm ginger (sliced)
- 1 dried red chilli (chopped) (optional)
- 600g (1.3lb) Chicken thigh fillets
- 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tsp of dark soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp of shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp of brown sugar
- cup of Thai basil (washed)
- 01. Add the sesame oil and fry the garlic, ginger and chillies on medium heat for a few minutes
- 02. Add the chicken and ensure it is covered with the oil and cook until it is browned on all sides
- 03. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, wine, sugar and give it a good stir
- 04. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has reduced (approx 15 mins)
- 05. Add the basil and cook for a further few minutes
- 06. Serve immediately
- 1 - You can use any type of basil if Thai basil is not available. I sometimes use Italian basil
- 2 - Please ensure that the meat is cook through before serving.