Three Cup Chicken is a classic Taiwanese dish. Seared chicken thighs are tossed in a savory & umami sauce with Thai basil. Perfect over hot steamed rice!
A few years back, our close friend Nima asked if I have a recipe for Three Cup Chicken. And no, not only I didn’t have a recipe, I have never tasted it. Three Cup Chicken is a Taiwanese dish. It’s definitely not a dish I have seen often in Hong Kong.
Recently, I finally got to try the dish. Oh man, it was good! After doing some research, I have learned that three cup means one cup soy sauce, one cup sesame oil and one cup of wine. But with a more modern adjustment, people use much less these days, especially the sesame oil. It’s also one of those dishes that everyone has his/her own recipe. Some people use boneless chicken and some use bone-in chicken.
Three Cup Chicken is an easy dish. But there is one ingredient you need, Thai basil. Thai basil has a much stronger taste than regular basil. It’s pungent, herbal and earthy. Even though Thai basil is added at the very last minute of the cooking process, you can still taste them in the dish. I think Thai basil is what ties the dish together. Definitely try your best to find them. Your best chance is Asian supermarkets, especially Thai and Vietnamese ones. Sometimes, you can find them in Japanese and Chinese supermarkets too.
This dish is savory, umami, earthy with a hint of sweetness. Spoon some chicken and sauce over hot steamed rice. I guarantee that you will want a refill. I love that this dish doesn’t require marinating and it can be done fairly quick. It makes a great weeknight meal. Hope you like it too!
Three Cup Chicken
- 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1½ lbs)
- 1½ tablespoons sesame oil
- 12 garlic cloves (peeled)
- 12 ginger slices (peeled and smashed lightly)
- 2 teaspoons rock sugar (crushed) or sugar
- 2½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce (optional)
- 3 tablespoons rice wine or sake
- 25 - 30 Thai basil leaves
- Remove the bones in the chicken. Rinse under water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut a few slits on the meat side, so it can be cooked easier (do not cut over the skin).
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat until hot. Without oil, add chicken with skin side down and cook until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 1 minute. The chicken should be raw in the middle. Transfer to a chopping board. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the same skillet over medium heat, use a couple paper towels to wipe off the fat. Add sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add ginger slices and cook until slightly golden. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add rock sugar and stir for a few minutes until the sugar starts to melt.
- Return the chicken to the skillet and stir for a minute. Add soy sauce and dark soy sauce if using. Toss to coat the chicken. Pour in the wine and stir again. Taste the sauce and adjust with more soy sauce or wine. Cover with a lid for 1 – 2 minutes. Remove the lid and let the sauce thicken for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat and add Thai basil leaves. Mix and transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately with steamed rice.
- Rock sugar can be found in Chinese supermarket or Amazon.
- Dark soy sauce is more for the color, not too much flavors. It’s ok if you don’t add any. You can get it from Chinese supermarket or Amazon.
- Chinese rice wine has a higher alcohol level than sake, but if you can’t find rice wine, use sake.
- Thai basil can be found in some Asian supermarkets. Your best chance is Thai and Vietnamese markets. Sometimes, you can find them in Japanese and Chinese markets too.
- Leftover thai basil can be frozen for later use. Learn how to do it here.