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Three Cup Chicken/San Bei Ji

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This classic Taiwanese dish is marvelous and simple to make. The recipe is named so because the chicken is cooked in a cup of soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, and toasted sesame oil. Fresh Thai basil leaves are added right at the end to tie all these wonderful flavors together. While chestnuts are not a part of the traditional recipe, I like to add them in for an extra- crunchy note. 

The recipe was adapted from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho (Clarkson Potter 2015)

  • Yield: 2 or more as a side


1 1/2 lb/680 g chicken thighs or legs (see Notes), cut into bite-size pieces

fine sea salt

2 Tbsp neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed

3 in/6 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices

8 oz/230 g canned sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 cup/120 ml Chinese cooking wine

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup/60 ml toasted sesame oil

1/2 tsp ground black pepper 


  1. Cover the chicken pieces in a large saucepan with enough cold tap water to cover by 1 in/2.5 cm. Add a tsp of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes. The chicken will turn opaque. Using a slotted spoon transfer the chicken to a bowl or plate and discard the water.
  2. Heat the wok over high heat. Once the wok starts to smoke, add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chestnuts and stir-fry for 1 minute. 
  3. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add half the wine and 1 Tbsp soy sauce and continue to stir-fry until the chicken is browned 3 to 4 minutes. 
  4. Transfer the chicken to a medium Dutch oven. Add the remaining wine, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the black pepper. Cover with a lid, and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the liquid reduces to a sauce. 
  5. When ready to serve, top with the Thai basil leaves. Serve hot. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 


  • You can use bone-in or boneless chicken. If using bone-in chicken, use 2 lb/910 g. I avoid chicken with its skin in this recipe, but feel free to use it. 

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