Three Cup Chicken: How to Make Taiwanese-Style Chicken

The three “cup” of the Taiwanese-style chicken means the use of three ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. The dish is a potent, salty, and savoury braised chicken with its signature taste from garlic cloves, thick pieces of ginger, and fresh basil leaves.

The recipe, for ages, has been passed through generations orally in Taiwan. As of late, it is included in cooking and recipe-style books.

The dish, according to many, has some similarities with Hakka-style preparations and red-braised styles of cooking, but its use of basil is distinct.

 Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken

  • Author: Romae Chanice Marquez
  • Recipe Category: Taiwanese Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Taiwanese

The Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken recipe in Taiwan has been known as a quintessential main dish for decades. The whole preparation and cooking time is 1 hour, and this recipe is good for four servings.

The Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken is also well-known in Chinese cuisine. Photo Credits to:

Three Cup Chicken Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup sesame oil
  • 10 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 3 dried whole red chillies

Three Cup Chicken Instructions

Step 1: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Next, add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly brown on all sides. Do this for about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Step 2: Next, heat the sesame oil in a skillet. Add ginger and garlic. Cook and stir until brown. Stir the chicken, and add sherry, soy sauce, water, and sugar. Bring to boil and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Step 3: Simmer until there is only ¼ cup of liquid left. Do this for about 20 minutes. Stir the basil and chillies. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until liquid is almost gone.

Three Cup Chicken Additional Information

  • Per serving has 653 calories, 44.9 g total fat, 108 mg cholesterol, and 1554 mg sodium.
  • The dish is called San Bei Ji in Taiwan.
  • The recipe works because of its bold and flavorful cooking liquid which are made from equal parts of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine.
  • The recipe’s prep time is about one hour.
  • If you buy chicken in the local market, ask the butcher to cut the pieces into 3-inch pieces.
  • The dish is best paired with white rice.

About Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken Recipe

The Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken recipe has an enticing blend of sweetness and savoury. This Taiwanese dish is traditionally cooked with three cups giving it a slight hint of spiciness and unique fragrance. The dish is best served with white rice and a plain garlic stir fry of other vegetables. If you’re a garlic lover, do not skimp on the garlic cloves.

The dish is also famous in Chinese cuisine. The name of the dish is also reminiscent of why a pound cake is called a pound cake – traditional recipes used a pound of flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. The basic traditional recipe uses the three sauce ingredients to create a thick, dark, reduced syrup that absorbs right into the chicken. Now, many variations of the dish use seafood or other types of meat.

The secret to having a thick sauce is adding maltose and sugar as a sweetener. The outcome of the gravy is slightly thick and glossy to coat the meat. To add more flavour, another tip is to cook the garlic and ginger in sesame oil until fragrant. However, over the years, the recipe has been modified all over the world. Modern cooking includes scallions, slicing them into 2-inch pieces and simmering them with the chicken until sweet and sticky. Some modification includes a more exotic route, like adding Thai basil, which can be grown in a home garden.


Taiwanese cuisine has been open to many influences. In recent years, the Taiwanese-Style Three Cup Chicken recipe has moved through generations orally. It has gained popularity beyond Taiwan, giving it more variations of taste. For other chicken recipes, know more here.

Featured image: Rasa Malaysia / Instagram, Rasa Malaysia / Instagram.