Cook the Book: Three Cup Chicken with Green Beans

Cook the Book: Three Cup Chicken with Green Beans

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

When I get together with friends, food and drink are almost always involved, most often meeting for a meal at a restaurant or going for drinks at a bar. Before Cathy Erway began her eating-in experiment, her social life was quite similar. But when restaurants were out of the mix, Erway had to devise a way to maintain her friendships without sacrificing her no-eating-out principles. The solution was obvious: Erway would invite her friends over for dinner.

Erway had the foresight to keep her maiden voyage into the world of entertaining simple by making Three Cup Chicken with Green Beans, a Taiwanese dish made of chicken cooked in equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine and then finished with fresh basil. It's a dish she had made before but that was exotic enough to intrigue her food-minded friends.


In The Art of Eating In Erway recounts her first dinner party, which ended up being delicious if not a bit disastrous due to a bloodthirsty cat named Dracula.

Knowing that the worst that my cats could accomplish was a piece or two of stolen chicken, I decided to try Erway's Taiwanese chicken for myself.

The list of ingredients comprised mostly pantry items that I already had on hand; combined with the relatively quick cooking time, it made this dish an ideal and inexpensive weeknight meal. A bonus was that it was almost a one-pot meal, chicken and green beans cook together and are then served over rice.

The finished dish was was salty, sweet, and aromatic with a hint of heat from the chiles, and the sauce was just thick enough to permeate the rice. The beans and scallions, which are added last, stayed in that wonderful zone just between raw and cooked.

I suppose the best way to describe the flavors of this dish is somewhere between home-cooking and take-out. It's an exotic-yet-familiar meal that's an ideal way to feed first-time guests.

Win The Art Of Eating In

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Art of Eating In to give away this week.

  • Yield:4


  • 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs, sliced against the grain to ΒΌ-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 20 cloves of garlic, smashed or coarsely chopped
  • 20 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice wine
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half to roughly 2-3-inch pieces
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2-3 dried whole red chilies (optional)
  • 1 large bunch Thai basil leaves
  • Rice for serving


  1. 1.

    Mix chicken pieces in cornstarch and two teaspoons of soy sauce in a bowl. Cover and chill to marinate at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

  2. 2.

    In a large nonstick pan, heat sesame oil with the chilies, garlic and ginger until oil just begins to bubble.

  3. 3.

    Add chicken and stir to brown pieces on all sides a little bit. Add rice wine, remaining soy sauce, and sugar. Stir until boiling, then cover.

  4. 4.

    Let simmer on medium-low 8 minutes or slightly longer if using chicken with bones. Add the green beans and basil and stir the pan to evenly distribute them. Cover partially and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

  5. 5.

    Add scallions and toss once more.

  6. 6.

    Serve with white rice.