Like pound cake, three teacup chicken refers to the "small Chinese teacup," which is used to "measure the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar." At least that's what Grace Young and Alan Richardson claim for this rendition in The Breath of a Wok. Cute anecdote aside, what's amazing is how simple this sauce is to make. It's tart, sweet, astonishingly complex. Plus it comes together in a matter of seconds, and pairs nicely with the chicken.
Though it's an optional ingredient in the official recipe, I really can't emphasize enough how important the Sichuan peppercorns are. At first, I didn't even notice them in the sauce. But after a minute or so, I started to feel the slight tingle on my lips—I needed to eat more. It became an addiction, and to save myself from sipping all the sauce with a spoon, I used the broccoli to soak it up. (I'd suggest you do the same.)
- 3 whole star anise
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- 4 chicken legs, skin on
- 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- 6 slices fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted and ground
- ½ cup chicken stock
Whisk together star anise, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and rice wine in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Place a large wok over high heat. When it starts to smoke, pour in oil. Swirl oil around, and then add chicken legs skin side down. Adjust heat to medium-high and cook undisturbed until they are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the chicken legs, and add garlic and ginger. Continue cooking until the other side is browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce mixture, and chicken stock. Toss chicken pieces with sauce. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then cover the work, reduce heat to low, and cook until juices run clear in the legs, about 10 minutes. Remove legs and set aside on a plate.
Turn heat to medium-high, and reduce sauce until it lightly coats the back of a spoon, stirring often. Serve chicken legs with sauce. Pair with white rice or broccoli.