Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken
I first fell in love with sweet, sticky Three Cup Chicken in China, and surprisingly not in Taiwan. When in Shanghai, we often frequented a local restaurant on Taiwanese street, to savor this beautifully spicy dish in little claypots. This delicious chicken dish owes its origins to JiangXi province in China, where it is prepared in a very simple way with three liquids - light soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, and therefore the name - “three cup chicken”. The Taiwanese version is also very similar, just more aromatic with the addition of sweet basil in the end.
I love this dish not just for its simplicity, but also because it contains some of my favorite aromatics - garlic, ginger, dried chilies, and spring onion. No matter what you do, don’t skimp on garlic in this recipe. I have used 15 cloves of garlic for 900g of chicken, which might sound like a lot but trust me, the garlic just melts away in the beautiful sweet and spicy sauce. You can add more garlic, but definitely not less. The dark caramelized garlic in this dish is one of my favorite ingredients to savor with steamed rice.
Another thing to remember is to try and use chicken with bones in this recipe. If you don’t have the time to chop up a whole chicken, simply use chicken legs and thighs cut into smaller pieces or a combination of wings and drumsticks. The bones impart so much flavor to the sauce and take it to a whole new level.
I have added only 1-2 tablespoons sesame oil to this sauce, however the original recipe has a lot more. Feel free to add a few more tablespoons of the nutty oil if you’d like to try the more authentic version.
Traditionally, the chicken is transferred into a clay-pot once you finish adding the sauces (STEP 6) and then slow-cooked until done. However, if you don’t have a clay-pot, simply use a large frying-pan like I did, or a Dutch oven works too. Once done, throw in some fresh Thai basil just before serving it with some steamed Jasmine rice.
I hope you enjoy this simple yet beautiful Taiwanese dish. As always, leave any questions you may have in comments. Happy cooking!
Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken Recipe Video
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Payal Thakurani is a cooking instructor, consulting chef, and author of the popular Southeast Asian cookbook “Curries for the Soul”. Originally based in Shanghai China, chef Payal has been in the food industry since 2012, working in training and brand development in central kitchens. She was also the proud owner of a cooking school and several food brands in Shanghai. She now lives in Singapore and heads Commune Kitchen in Downtown Gallery, where she hosts affordable, hands-on cooking classes for all ages.