Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (aka 三杯鷄)

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As some of you might already know, I’m a Taiwanese-American. Growing up around these parts, my mom enrolled me in Chinese School.  It’s not like normal school – all it is is it’s a 2 hour class on Saturday where a teacher taught you Mandarin Chinese and Chinese Literature.  One of my fondest memories from back then was my mom and I would always grab dinner at the local Taiwanese restaurant and I would ALWAYS beg for Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (aka San Bei Ji or 三杯鷄).

It was my fave!  Mostly because I love basil… but who doesn’t!  Basil has such a delicious and flavorful taste.  So WHY is it called “Three Cup Chicken”, you might be thinking.  Well, it’s because it’s ingredients basically are made up of 3 cups of sauces – Soy Sauce, Rice Wine, and Sesame Oil.

I know for you folks that are on a strict paleo diet, you might be re-thinking this recipe, but I am totally going to show you how to make it so you can keep it paleo and gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Chicken Drumsticks – Traditionally, it’s bone in drumsticks, chopped in to smaller chunks.  However, if you hate that, use what ever chicken you want.
  • 1/2 cup Sesame Oil
  • 1 cup Rice Wine (Paleo option:  Either some white alcohol you are okay with, or skip it)
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce (Paleo/Gluten Free option:  Coconut Amino)
  • A bunch of Fresh Basil
  • 2 inch of Ginger, sliced
  • 5-10 gloves Garlic (depending on their size), Peeled and kept in whole clove
  • Scallions, cut up to about 2 inches
  • 1 tbsp Traditional Pure Brown Rock Sugar aka 冰糖 (Paleo option: honey or coconut palm sugar)
  • Clay Pot (Optional)
  • Salt, as desired

BTW – You might be wondering what is Traditional Pure Brown Rock Sugar?!  Well, if you are, it’s basically crystallized sugar that is used in many asian cuisine including Chinese Chrysanthemum tea and certain Chinese dessert soups.   Here’s what it may look like:

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Instructions

Prepare your Basil, Garlic, and Ginger if you haven’t already:

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

If you choose the traditional route and are using drumsticks, with a butcher knife, chop the drumsticks in to 3 segments (or 2 if they are smaller).

Heat a wok or skillet over high heat and add sesame oil.

Add the sliced ginger first and cook until slightly browned.

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Add the chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and crisping at the edges, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.  Then add rice wine, garlic, and scallions.

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Now, if you HAVE a Clay Pot, go ahead and transfer it over to the clay pot.  If not, no worries!  Just skip this step and continue on the recipe.

Add whatever version of sugar you used and stir to combine, then add the soy sauce, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat, then simmer until the sauce has reduced and started to thicken, approximately 15 minutes.  You can give it a taste and if it’s not as salty as you like, add salt as desired.

Add the basil and stir to combine and then turn off the heat.  Don’t let it cook the basil for too long.

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Serve!

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options)

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Paleo and Gluten Free Options) aka 三杯鷄

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Chicken Drumsticks – Traditionally, it’s bone in drumsticks, chopped in to smaller chunks. However, if you hate that, use what ever chicken you want.
  • 1/2 cup Sesame Oil
  • 1 cup Rice Wine (Paleo option: Either some white alcohol you are okay with, or skip it)
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce (Paleo/Gluten Free option: Coconut Amino)
  • A bunch of Fresh Basil
  • 2 inch of Ginger, sliced
  • 6 gloves Garlic, Peeled and kept in whole clove
  • Scallions, cut up to about 2 inches
  • 1 tbsp Traditional Pure Brown Rock Sugar aka 冰糖 (Paleo option: honey or coconut palm sugar)
  • Clay Pot (Optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare your Basil, Garlic, and Ginger if you haven’t already.
  2. If you choose the traditional route and are using drumsticks, with a butcher knife, chop the drumsticks in to 3 segments (or 2 if they are smaller).
  3. Heat a wok or skillet over high heat and add sesame oil.
  4. Add the sliced ginger first and cook until slightly browned.
  5. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and crisping at the edges, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Then add rice wine, garlic, and scallions.
  6. Now, if you HAVE a Clay Pot, go ahead and transfer it over to the clay pot. If not, no worries! Just skip this step and continue on the recipe.
  7. Add whatever version of sugar you used and stir to combine, then add the soy sauce, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat, then simmer until the sauce has reduced and started to thicken, approximately 15 minutes.  You can give it a taste and if it's not as salty as you like, add salt as desired.
  8. Add the basil and stir to combine and then turn off the heat. Don’t let it cook the basil for too long.
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Looking for more Asian Chicken recipes?  Try my most popular Easy Coconut Chicken Curry!

Coconut Curry Chicken
Coconut Curry Chicken
  • author's avatar

    By: Tina T

    Tina is a foodie that loves eating delicious and healthy. Having grown up in an Asian household in Atlanta, she loves creating and eating both Asian and American cuisine. Tina is the main blogger and owner of Oh Snap! Let’s Eat!. Read more…

  • author's avatar

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13 comments

  1. Recognizing that there are different types of soy sauces and sesame oils, which should be used in this recipe? Wouldn’t the sesame oil burn if used for frying?

    1. Hi there! Great questions!!! So, light sesame oil has a higher smoke point than dark, but we’re not really deep frying here… only stir frying, so either one will work. As for soy sauce – I know this is probably not the answer you’re looking for but it depends on your preference. Some people like dark sweet soy sauce and some people like the light soy sauce. I like it light and low sodium, so that is what I personally used this time around.

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