Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Cup Chicken (3 Cup Chicken)

Three Cup Chicken or 3 Cup Chicken (Chinese: 三杯雞) is one of the most authentic Taiwan food that truly represents Taiwan culinary. Three cup chicken literally means using 3 cups of sauce or condiments to cook the chicken, that's how the name came by.

We decided to cook Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) today because we really love the taste and secondly, our basil has grown to a healthy length. So it's time to harvest our leaves of labour!

Little Frederic Fox grabs a huge scissors to cut the basil. Gardening is not our forte but we read here that you're supposed to cut these kind of plants with a scissors. If you pluck it, it won't grow. Sounds familiar isn't it?

Basil abhors the hot sun and adores the rain, the leaves have shrunken as a result of the high afternoon temperature, its normal don't worry. On a rainy day, the basil will look very energetic!

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) and basil, what is the link between them you might wonder. If you're from Taiwan, you definitely know what's going on. So for those who doesn't know, basil which they call 九層塔 in Chinese is one of the core ingredients for cooking Three Cup Chicken. You will be overwhelmed by the aromatic basil taste in this authentic Taiwan delicacy.

Also if you have noticed, this type of basil (九層塔) looks different from the usual sweet basil you see in Italian food. Taste wise they are almost the same, sweet basil is the ex-owner of the pot that this current basil is growing now but it could not survive the warm weather near the equator. This type of basil (九層塔) however can survive well in this all summer country as long as you give it lots of rain.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) ingredients are as follows:

1 whole piece of boneless chicken leg (thigh+drumstick) 2 inch diced
5 stalks of fresh basil (九層塔)
3 stalks of green spring onion 2 inch length
4-5 slices of ginger
4-5 cloves of garlic whole peeled
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
8 tablespoons of white rice wine

Let's introduce you the 3 cups for cooking the Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞). The first cup would be white rice wine. Taiwan cuisine cannot live without rice wine, they literally cook every dish with rice wine. However it's not so popular here in Singapore nor Malaysia so there weren't many choices to buy from.

The second cup of Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) is soy sauce. This is the main contributor to the saltiness of the Three Cup Chicken, so I would advise getting a high quality soy sauce like this one or any expensive ones.

In Three Cup Chicken - the third cup and final would be sesame oil. Many people actually have a misunderstanding that Three Cup Chicken means adding one cup each for the rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil. That is wrong, it would be too salty and oily. Our recommended ratio is 1:2:4 sesame oil : soy sauce : rice wine respectively. Sugar's portion is also 1 please take note.

The best thing about homegrown vegetables is they are the real deal of organic vegetables, some simple washing will do. Now pluck the basil leaves out from the stalk, the stalk is too hard to be eaten.

Remember we taught you before to always remove the chicken skin and set it aside for frying chicken oil? You better! Okay now, par boil the chicken cubes for about 30 seconds in boiling water. This is to get rid of any foul blood smell from the chicken. The better way would be either deep frying it until it's crispy and dry or soaking it in medium low oil. We opted for boiling as oil is expensive recently and it's the healthier choice.

Heat up the pan real well, until you see smoke coming out from the sides. Put the chicken skin into the empty hot pan to fry until the oil comes out and the skin turns brown.

On the other side of your stove, slowly heat up the claypot in low heat. Be careful of heating an empty claypot, if you set the heat too high it will crack. We usually add some water inside for it to boil until dry to prevent cracking.

Continuing on the frying pan on the other side, you can see you don't need to add any additional oil, it's all natural chicken oil and very fragrant. Now put these ingredients in this order - ginger first, then spring onion and garlic.

Now add the par boiled chicken, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 8 tablespoons of rice wine and 2 tablespoons of sugar in

Sugar gives the sauce a very nice brown color and it softens the saltiness of the soy sauce. Adding sugar is also a very authentic way of cooking Taiwan cuisine. Let the whole thing boil for about 5 minutes, lids covered would be better.

Add a tablespoon of sesame oil into the claypot. It is very hot now, so be careful.

Quickly add a portion of the basil leaves right after.

Transfer the chicken from the frying pan to the claypot. Now you can add another tablespoon of sesame oil spread it across the chicken.

Add the remaining basil leaves on top and you're almost done.

The final step would be adding an extra tablespoon (estimate) of rice wine on top of the closed claypot lid. The effect of adding this extra rice wine is, later when you open the lid, the sweet smell of the rice wine will explode right to your nose.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞) the authentic Taiwan cuisine is complete! Now give the claypot a nice stir, the smell of the basil would be rushing to your nose like streaming torrents. Frederic, you are one lucky NICI plush that gets to eat this 3 cup chicken with us!

You may visit our recipe page for the list of all the food we've cooked.
Its been a while since we posted any recipes. Hope you like today's Three Cup Chicken recipe!


  1. Thank you Raquel and Leona for pointing this problem out. I have not done any changes to the settings but seems like when the "Comment Form Placement" setting is set at "Embedded below post", the comment box is not appearing. Now I changed it to "Pop-up window". If you can read this, then it works :)

    Grascias, Danke! I would not have noticed the problem if you two haven't told me ^_^

  2. How nice that is already solved. Regarding entry, Frederic Fox this done everything a cook hehe.

  3. Hi Hugo. We are happy that the problem could be solved, so lets post! Frederic with the basil is sooo cute!!! We love the fragrance of this wonderful green and surely your fox loved this delicious food. We`ll try to find white rice wine, because we would love to cook this chicken. Our Harry Fox sends special greetings to your Frederic :-)

  4. This is quite an unique dish in Chinese cuisine considered the way of cooking and abundant of basil being used. Thank you for sharing this recipe. It is absolutely a good cooking session.

  5. @BeaThanks! Frederic enjoyed the cooking time :-)

    @Leona LöwenherzRice wine only adds subtle aroma to the dish, you can easily substitute it with dry sherry, gin, or sake! :D

    @BrigetteIts indeed a very unique dish, glad you liked it :-)