Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)

Tender chicken is braised with garlic and ginger in a sweet and savory sauce. [Photograph: Cathy Erway]

Cooked in soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil, and loaded with heaps of whole garlic cloves, slices of ginger, and fresh Thai basil, this classic Taiwanese chicken dish is a perfect reminder of just how good an over-abundance of flavor can be.

Why this recipe works:

  • The bold and flavorful cooking liquid is incredibly easy, made from equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.
  • By cooking the garlic and ginger in the oil first, then adding the chicken and cooking liquid, the entire dish can be made quickly in just one skillet or wok.
  • Two options for cutting up the chicken allow you to choose between a more traditional version (with the chicken cut into 3-inch, bone-in pieces), or a more home-cook-friendly version (with the drumsticks left whole and the thighs cut in half along—but not through—the bone).

Note: If buying chicken from a butcher, ask for pieces to be chopped to 3-inch pieces with the bones in and skin on.

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Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 4 to 6
Active time:25 minutes
Total time:30 minutes
Special equipment:Large wok or deep skillet
This recipe appears in: Taiwan Eats: Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)
Rated:

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup Asian sesame oil
  • One (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 12-15 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 fresh Thai red chilis, stemmed and halved
  • 2 pounds skin-on chicken drumsticks, thighs, and/or wings, either chopped into 3-inch, bone-in pieces, or thighs halved along along the bone, wings split at the joint, and drumsticks left whole
  • 2/3 cup rice wine
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves (from 1 large bunch)
  • Steamed white rice, for serving

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ginger, garlic, and chilis and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

  2. 2

    Add chicken pieces to the skillet in a single layer and cook, tilting the pan if necessary to submerge all pieces in the oil, for 1 minute. Flip chicken pieces and cook for 1 minute longer.

  3. 3

    Add rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover the skillet to prevent splashes of oil and cook, turning the chicken pieces every few minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in Thai basil and remove from heat. Serve immediately with rice.

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