Three Cup Chicken Recipe | 三杯雞 | Sān bēi jī

Three Cup Chicken Recipe | 三杯雞  | Sān bēi jī

Ni Hao Ma!!! This is probably the most popular dish in Taiwan and this Taiwanese version of San Bei Ji calls refreshing herbal fragrance of fresh Asian basil and a perfect reminder of how good an overabundance of flavour can be.

Three cup chicken takes its name from the equal ratio of sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce it became wildly popular in Taiwan and since then it becomes one of their most iconic dishes. The chicken is cooked in the sauce until tender before the sauce is reduced to a glaze that coats the chicken. Thai basil added at the end gives this dish a distinctly local flavour that has become a hallmark of Taiwanese cuisine.

The fragrant sauce is the soul of this signature dish. Deliciously savoury, slightly sweet with a wee bit of spice… 

I love Taiwanese food and this dish reminds me of my fond memories when I lived in Taiwan 10yrs ago. Taiwanese food is part Chinese, part Japanese, part native, with a gorgeous bounty of local produce, meat, and seafood, Taiwanese cooking has many origins, but nothing else tastes quite like it. Taiwan has a special place in my heart and this dish is dedicated to all my Taiwanese friends and colleagues and I hope you will enjoy making this recipe because I did


Three Cup Chicken Recipe | 三杯雞 | Sān bēi jī

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 45M


  • 600 grams chicken drumsticks and chicken thigh
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) black sesame oil (see note)
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) rice wine
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, chopped
  • small handful Asian basil leaves (see note)
  • steamed rice, to serve



Using a cleaver or a large, heavy knife, chop the chicken into large bite-sized pieces.


Heat the sesame oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned all over.


Add the ginger and garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add the rice wine and cook until nearly evaporated, then add the soy sauce, sugar, pepper and 80 ml (⅓ cup) water.


Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.


Add the chilli and basil and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute, then serve immediately with steamed rice.



Black sesame oil is stronger in flavour and fragrance than the paler, regular sesame oil, so it is perfect for dishes such as this where you really want to emphasise the lovely, nutty sesame flavour. Because the oil is prone to becoming rancid more quickly than others, it is best purchased in small bottles and stored in the refrigerator. If you have difficulty getting hold of Asian basil (otherwise known as holy basil), substitute with regular basil and add 1 star anise to the simmering chicken.


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