Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Perfect One-dish Dinner: Three Cup Chicken

I was home alone on a weeknight and wanted to prepare something real simple myself for dinner. I happened to have a bunch of fresh Thai basil that I picked up at a specialty grocery store the day before so I thought the "Three Cup" Chicken (三杯雞) would be perfect, something that was easy to make, can be done in less than 30 minutes start from finish and worked well with just a simple bowl of rice for a one-dish dinner, for one.

Three Cup Chicken, so called because only three types of seasonings were required (not to indicate their respective portion though, mind you), with sesame oil, cooking wine and soy sauce poured on top of chicken (and other ingredients as you so wish) in a earthenware pot and simmered in low heat. It was then finished with a generous amount of shredded basil mixed in just before serving for the added aroma. The dish was said to have originated from Jiangxi Province of China but now Taiwanese are claiming that as their own.

"Three Cup Chicken" (serves one with leftovers for the next day)


  • 300g of skin-on chicken drumsticks, chopped into bite-size bone-in pieces (alternatively, boneless chicken thigh can be used, preferably skin-on)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 3 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1-2 fresh bird-eye chilies, stemmed, seeds removed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • A small bunch of Thai basil leaves (around 1 cup loose, tore to small pieces by hand)
  • (Optional) 1 medium-sized onions, chopped into chunks


1. Using a earthenware pot or tagine, heat oil over medium-high heat, then put ginger, garlic, chilies (and onions if used) into the pot and sautéed for 2 minutes with the lid off. Take the partially-cooked ingredients out into a bowl and set aside, leaving the oil in the pot.
2. Keep the pot in medium-high heat, add chicken pieces into the pot with the skin down, cook for 1.5 minute then flip and cook for another minute.
3. With the chicken still in the pan, put the ginger, garlic, chilies, (and onion if used) back into the pot. Add water, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar into the pot and stir to mix everything together. Cover the pot with the lid, reduce heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Open the lid to check occasionally to make sure the sauce didn't dry up and pot wouldn’t burn. (add a tablespoon of water if needed)
4. Just before serving, remove the pot from heat and stir in the Thai basil. Keep the lid on for a couple minutes to let the herbal aroma infused into the dish. Serve immediately with a bowl of rice (or two), with the delicious reduction sauce and tender chicken taken in all the flavor from the sauces with the basil aroma.

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