三杯雞 (san bei ji) “3 Cups Chicken” is listed as #32 on CNNGO’s list of “40 Taiwanese Foods We Can Not Live Without”. Obviously the list is in no particular order. For while the dish originates from Jiangxi province (江西) in southern China, it is so universally popular in Taiwan that one could be forgiven for thinking it was invented there. For those not intimately familiar with the dish, the flavor of 3 Cups Chicken is a bit salty, and a bit oily, which may be what American’s expect from “Chinese” food, but is really an exception in Taiwanese cuisine. It is also exceptionally fragrant, so turn your stove hood’s exhaust fan on.
3 Cups Chicken is an easy dish to make and requires very few ingredients, not to mention the measurements are pretty basic (actually this recipe is 3 Cups Chicken x 1/2 = 1 & 1/2 c. chicken, just double it if you want a full 3 c.). It is traditionally prepared in a earthenware pot, but good results can be had with cast iron, especially enameled cast iron as well.
- 2 chicken quarters or half a chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 c. sesame oil or black sesame oil
- 2 scallions, chopped into 2″ segments
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 8 slices of fresh ginger
- 1/2 c. soy sauce (use 1/3 c. if rice wine is salted)
- 1/2 c. rice wine (white)
- 1/2 T. sugar
- 1 red chili, chopped
- few sprigs of fresh basil
- Blanch chicken the chicken pieces in boiling water, remove and drain.
- In a earthenware pot or heavy pan heat the sesame oil. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger, fry until fragrant. Next add the chicken pieces, stir.
- Carefully pour in the soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar.
- Reduce heat to medium low, simmer uncovered until the the sauce is about 80 to 90% reduced (about 30 minutes). *
- Add the chili and basil, stir and serve.
*Note: It can be cooked until the chicken is browning and is making popping and crackling noises, careful not to burn.