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!





  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 saucedark 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!


  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.

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