That Spicy Chick

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) is an easy one-wok dish that is mouthwateringly delicious! Chicken is cooked with aromatics in sesame oil, then braised in a heavenly spicy-sweet and savory sauce, and finished off with fragrant Thai sweet basil!

Three Cup Chicken in a white round serving dish. Chopsticks, silver spoon, and Thai sweet basil leaves above the serving dish.

Say hello to my new favorite chicken dish! ❤️

Well actually, it’s an old favorite that I found in one of my recipe notebooks from 2012!

You see, although That Spicy Chick – this blog, is fairly young, I have been writing and developing recipes in my trusty notebook(s) for many, many years.

So the other day when I was looking for something in one of my old recipe notebooks, I landed on the page for this delicious, mouthwatering, and super fragrant classic Taiwanese dish – Three Cup Chicken (or San Bei Ji)!!

I decided to tweak the old recipe and make it again after several years. And today, I am so extremely excited to be sharing the new recipe with you guys!

This is one of those dishes that you make again and again because it is SO GOOD and SO EASY to make. And I think you guys are going to love it! 🤗

Three Cup Chicken in a white round serving dish.

WHAT IS THREE CUP CHICKEN?

Three Cup Chicken is a classic Taiwanese and Chinese dish. The name comes from the ingredients for the sauce, which used to be made in the old days with a cup each of Shao Xing rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. But my guess is that amount was probably used for a seriously large quantity of chicken.

In this recipe, I don’t use a cup of any ingredient and find that the sauce actually tastes much better with different measurements for the aforementioned three main ingredients.

Two pieces of brown sauce glazed chicken wings with sauce on top of steamed white rice in a bowl with a spoon. Dish of San Bei Ji above the bowl. Spoon and chopsticks to the side of the bowl.

REASONS TO LOVE THREE CUP CHICKEN

  • It’s quick and easy to make and made in one wok – so not much cleaning up to do after cooking and you can sit down and truly enjoy every delightful bite of it!
  • It’s made with a handful every Asian pantry staples and ingredients, all of which you can easily find in your regular large supermarket or in your local Asian grocery store.
  • The chicken becomes extremely tender and loaded with flavor thanks to braising it in the divine sauce!
  • The sauce is totally drool-worthy and so incredibly flavorful. It’s extremely sexy, with the way it dribbles down into your rice bowl, and I seriously cannot get enough of this dish because of IT! The sauce itself is why you NEED Three Cup Chicken in your life!!
  • It’s made with super fragrant Thai sweet basil, and your house is guaranteed to smell amazing after cooking with it!
Two pieces of brown sauce glazed chicken wings with sauce on top of steamed white rice in a bowl with a spoon.

THREE CUP CHICKEN INGREDIENTS

To make this classic Taiwanese dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Chicken: I used bone-in skin-on chicken wings and drumettes, and I highly recommend using them because bone-in chicken is more flavorful than boneless chicken. Plus, the chicken wings and drumettes are easy to serve and eat. But if you prefer, you can also make this with boneless chicken thighs. Just cut them up into smaller pieces. Alternatively, you can also use boneless and skinless thighs if you prefer to lessen the fat content.
  • Garlic: You’ll need lots of garlic for this recipe! Cut the cloves into thin slices (lengthwise).
  • Ginger: Chopped into thin strips.
  • Red Onion (or shallots): Traditionally, shallots are used in this dish. But I use sliced red onion because they’re less sweet and I prefer the taste. But you can use a couple of shallots instead if you like.
  • Fresh Red Chilies: Feel free to use as much or as little as you like. You can deseed the chilies if you prefer less heat, or omit the chilies entirely to make a mild San Bei Ji dish.
  • Dried Red Chilies: Ditto the above.
  • Thai Sweet Basil: This makes the dish super aromatic and fragrant, and takes it to a whole other level! You can find Thai sweet basil in wet markets (if you’re based in Asia), or in your local Asian market at any given time of the year. Some supermarkets will also have it available.
  • Three Cup Chicken Sauce: A quick and easy sauce made with a combination of Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and brown sugar.
  • Sesame Oil: An important component of the sauce for this dish! But rather than adding in to the sauce, I like to cook everything in the sesame oil so that the fragrant flavor permeates through the entire dish.
  • Chili Oil: This is optional and not traditionally used. But I totally dig the extra heat that it adds to the dish, so add it if you love spicy food too! 😉
Two pieces of brown sauce glazed chicken wings with sauce on top of steamed white rice in a bowl with a spoon.

HOW TO MAKE THREE CUP CHICKEN

First, get all the prep work out of the way. Start by…

  1. Preparing the fresh and dry ingredients: Chop the garlic, ginger, red onion, red chilies, and cut the dried red chilies into halves and thirds (depending on their length). Pick the leaves off the Thai sweet basil stems, then wash and dry them with paper towels. Set everything aside until ready to use.
  2. Clean the chicken: Clean the chicken and trim off any excess fat if needed, then pat-dry with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: Combine the Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl or measuring cup. Mix thoroughly with a spoon to combine and set aside.

Now that we’ve got all the ingredients ready to go, let’s make some mouthwatering and fragrant Three Cup Chicken!

First, heat sesame oil and chili oil (if using) over medium-high heat in a large wok. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Next, add the red onion (or shallots), fresh red chilies, and dried red chilies. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes to combine.

Sliced garlic, ginger, dried red chilies, fresh red chilies, and sliced red onion sizzling in sesame oil in a wok.

Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken drumettes and wings in an even layer. Fry for 3-4 minutes undisturbed.

Chicken wings, chilies, onion slices, garlic, and ginger cooking in a wok.

Then flip the wings and fry the other side for another 4-5 minutes or until the chicken has browned a little and the skin has crisped up.

Slightly browned crisped up chicken wings, chilies, onion slices, garlic, and ginger cooking in a wok.

Pour in the sauce and stir to combine with the chicken. Then lower the heat to medium-low and cover the wok.

Pouring brown sauce over chicken and aromatics that are cooking in a wok on the stovetop.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, making sure to uncover and stir every few minutes to prevent burning, until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is tender.

Three Cup Chicken in a wok simmering in dark brown sauce.

Uncover the wok and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Stir for 2-3 minutes to reduce the sauce further, and then add the Thai sweet basil leaves. Stir for 1-2 minutes until the basil has wilted and is fragrant, then switch off the heat.

Three Cup Chicken in a wok with brown sauce and Thai sweet basil

Transfer to a serving dish and serve with warm steamed rice!

Chopsticks holding up a brown sauce glazed chicken wing above a bowl filled with rice and another chicken wing and sauce.

CAN I MAKE THIS GLUTEN-FREE?

Yes, you sure can! Use Tamari or gluten-free soy sauce in place of the low sodium soy sauce. In addition, you should also use a gluten-free dark soy sauce.

CAN I MAKE THIS VEGETARIAN/VEGAN?

To make this veg or vegan, you can use tofu instead of chicken. Use two blocks (about 700-750g of tofu in total) and slice them into half-inch thick slabs. Pan-fry them in a separate pan (or first in the wok) to get them nice and crispy. This will help them to retain their shape and prevent them from breaking down when you simmer the tofu in the sauce. Add them to the wok when you would add the chicken, then pour in the sauce. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes only. Then uncover and stir in the Thai sweet basil. Once the leaves have wilted and are fragrant, switch off the heat and serve with rice!

Chopsticks holding up chicken wing glazed in brown Asian sauces, and a white dish with San Bei Ji

MORE EASY ONE-POT/PAN ASIAN CHICKEN DELIGHTS

Looking for more quick & easy one-pot (or one wok!) recipes? These are some of my favorites!

If you make this recipe, leave a comment and review it below!

Tag @thatspicychick on Instagram and hashtag it #thatspicychick. I wanna see!! 🤗

Print
Three Cup Chicken in a white round serving dish.

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) is an easy one-wok dish that is mouthwateringly delicious! Chicken is cooked with aromatics in sesame oil, then braised in a heavenly spicy-sweet and savory sauce, and finished off with fragrant Thai sweet basil!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop/Simmer
  • Cuisine: Taiwanese/Chinese
Scale

Ingredients

  • 800820 grams (about 2022 pieces) skin-on Chicken Drumettes and Wings – cleaned, excess fat trimmed off and discarded
  • 12 Garlic Cloves – thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2-inch chunk of Ginger – chopped into thin strips
  • ½ Red Onion – thinly sliced (you can also use 56 small shallots instead)
  • 612 Red Chilies, to taste – roughly chopped (deseed if less heat is desired or omit entirely)
  • 510 Dried Red Chilies, to taste – cut into halves and thirds depending on size
  • 1 bunch (about 1 and ¼ cup) Thai Sweet Basil Leaves
  • 1 cup Shao Xing Rice Wine
  • ½ cup Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBLS Dark Soy Sauce
  • 4 TSP Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Sesame Oil
  • 1 TSP Chili Oil (optional)

Instructions

Prep:

  1. Prepare the fresh and dry ingredients: Chop the garlic, ginger, red onion, red chilies, and cut the dried red chilies into halves and thirds (depending on their length). Pick the leaves off the Thai sweet basil stems, then wash and dry them with paper towels. Set everything aside until ready to use.
  2. Clean the chicken: Clean the chicken and trim off any excess fat if needed, then pat-dry with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: Combine the Shao Xing rice wine, low sodium light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl or measuring cup. Mix thoroughly with a spoon to combine and set aside.

For the Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji):

  1. Heat sesame oil and chili oil (if using) over medium-high heat in a large wok. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger. Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Next, add the red onion (or shallots if using), fresh red chilies, and dried red chilies. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes to combine.
  3. Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken drumettes and wings in an even layer. Fry for 3-4 minutes undisturbed. Then flip the wings and fry the other side for another 4-5 minutes or until the chicken has browned a little and the skin has crisped up.
  4. Pour in the sauce and stir to combine with the chicken, then lower the heat to medium-low and cover the wok. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, making sure to uncover and stir every few minutes to prevent burning, until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is tender.
  5. Uncover the wok and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Stir for 2-3 minutes to reduce the sauce further, then add the Thai sweet basil leaves. Stir for 1-2 minutes until the basil has wilted and is fragrant, then switch off the heat.
  6. To Serve: Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice!

Notes

  1. To make this gluten-free: Use Tamari or gluten-free soy sauce in place of the low sodium soy sauce. In addition, you should also use a gluten-free dark soy sauce.
  2. To make this vegetarian/vegan: Use tofu instead of chicken. Use two blocks (about 700-750g of tofu in total) and slice them into half-inch thick slabs. Pan-fry them in a separate pan (or first in the wok) to get them nice and crispy – about 4-5 minutes for each side. (This will help them to retain their shape and prevent them from breaking down when you simmer the tofu in the sauce.) Transfer the tofu to a clean plate, then follow steps 1 and 2 as indicated. Add the pan-fried tofu when you would add the chicken, then immediately pour in the sauce. Cover the wok and simmer for 10-15 minutes only. Then uncover and cook as directed in the instructions for steps 5 and 6.
  3. What type of chicken to use: I use bone-in skin-on chicken wings and drumettes, and I highly recommend using them because bone-in chicken is more flavorful than boneless chicken. Plus, the chicken wings and drumettes are easy to serve and eat. But if you prefer, you can also make this with boneless chicken thighs. Just cut them up into smaller pieces. Alternatively, you can also use boneless and skinless chicken thighs if you prefer to lessen the fat content. I don’t recommend using boneless and skinless chicken breasts because of the simmering time required: chicken breasts tend to dry out when cooked for long periods. In addition they will be less flavorful than bone-in chicken or boneless skin-on chicken thighs in this recipe.
  4. Scaling down: Feel free to scale down the recipe to half if you don’t want to make a large portion. The recipe above serves 4-6 people.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 493
  • Sugar: 7.4g
  • Sodium: 1063.2mg
  • Fat: 37.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.3g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 25.5g
  • Trans Fat: 0.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 15.2g
  • Fiber: 1.7g
  • Protein: 28.1g
  • Cholesterol: 146.6mg
Two pieces of brown sauce glazed chicken wings with sauce on top of steamed white rice in a bowl with a spoon. Dish of San Bei Ji above the bowl. Spoon and chopsticks to the side of the bowl.

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