Three-Cup Chicken – The Classic 三杯雞

Three-Cup Chicken - 三杯雞

Three-Cup Chicken, or 三杯雞, is Chicken cooked in Soy Sauce, Rice Wine and Sesame Oil.. Here, the Taiwanese practice of adding Basil is used.

In Chinese cuisine, a ‘three-cups’ dish is one in which the main ingredient, traditionally Chicken, is cooked in a cup each of Soy Sauce, Rice Wine and Sesame Oil, although, in actual practice, any volume of each can be used as long as they are in equal amounts.

The dish apparently originated in Jiangxi Province in Southern China but is nowadays more closely associated with Taiwan where the basic recipe has been enhanced by the addition of fresh basil leaves towards the end of cooking. That enhancement is employed in the version you see pictured above.

Ingredient Notes for Three-Cup Chicken

Chicken is the most traditional meat used but there are also ‘three-cup’ dishes featuring pork or squid and I have even seen a recipe using salmon. Here, I am using Chicken, but instead of a whole cut up Chicken one might normally find, I am using 16 of the ‘Drummettes’, which are portion of the wing that’s attached to the main part of the bird.

How to Cook 三杯雞

Browning Chicken Pieces

First, heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large pan and brown the chicken wings. You don’t need to cook them all the way through. Just make sure that they are nice and golden brown on the outside. If you are using chicken parts other than the wing sections I used, make sure they are cut into smallish, similar sized pieces.

Preparing a ‘Three-Cup’ Chicken Sauce

Add the sesame oil to your wok and heat it on high (but not so hot it begins to smoke). Add the ginger and garlic, stir for a moment until they release their fragrance and then add the sugar, wine and soy sauce.

Cooking Chicken in ‘Three-Cups’

Let everything bubble until it is nice and frothy and then add the chicken pieces. Keep cooking until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the liquid has reduced by about 80 percent or so and is thickened and glossy. If things get to the point of being a bit to dry, add an extra splash of the wine.

Finishing 三杯雞 with Basil Leaves

When the sauce is just right, finish your Three-Cup Chicken by tossing in the basil leaves and stir until they are just wilted but still a nice bright green. Plate and serve immediately.

Your Recipe Card for 三杯雞 :

Three-Cup Chicken – 三杯雞

Three-Cup Chicken, or 三杯雞, is a traditional Chinese dish that is easy to prepare. Here, the Taiwanese practice of adding Basil is used.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese, Taiwanese
Keyword: Chicken, Garlic, Ginger, Rice Wine, Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, Sugar
Servings: 4 as part of a Chinese Meal
Author: John Thompson


  • 1 1/2 1 bs Chicken pieces I used 16 wing-drumettes
  • 1/3 cup Sesame Oil
  • 1/3 cup Rice Wine
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce
  • 4 tbsp. Sugar
  • 6 cloves Garlic cut into thin slices
  • 2 thin slices Ginger finely slivered
  • 1 bunch Basil about 1 cup or so of leaves
  • Vegetable Oil


  • Lightly brown the Chicken pieces in a little oil over moderate heat, then set aside.
  • Heat the Sesame Oil to a moderate-high temperature in your pan, then add the Garlic and Ginger, followed a minute or two later by the Sugar, Rice Wine and Soy Sauce.
  • Bring the Sauce to a bubbling boil and then add the Chicken pieces and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced to 20% of its original volume and is thick and glossy.
  • Finish by tossing in the basil leaves and stirring until they are just wilted. Plate and serve immediately.

1 Comment

  1. This is one of my favorite dishes that I got to know in Taiwan. There I’ve had it with scallops and that was outstanding. Together with the garlic and ginger, fresh red chilli was included as well. The basil should be Thai basil if you can find it.

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