I always wondered why this dish was known as “Three Cups Chicken” before I tried it for the first time. I even thought that probably the original recipe calls for 3-cup portions of chicken which I’m wrong of course. The dish derives its name from three different cups of sauces, mainly soy sauce, rice wine (some say it’s sugar instead of wine) and sesame oil. Traditionally, the chicken is to be braised in a claypot until the sauce dries up and is absorbed wholly by the chicken. Taste wise, it’s very much similar to sesame oil soy sauce chicken that we are familiar with except that there’s really not much sauce in this.
Three Cup Chicken Recipe
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1/2 chicken, remove skin & fats, cut into pieces
5 slices ginger
1 heaped tsp minced garlic
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2 stalks spring onions (or a handful of basil leaves), cut into 2″ sections
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1. Heat up olive oil and sesame oil in a claypot (or wok) on high heat. Add garlic, ginger and shallots and saute till fragrant.
2. Add chicken and stir-fry till meat is no longer pink. Add seasoning and stir to ensure chicken is well coated. Cover the claypot, reduce heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in spring onions (or basil leaves) when chicken is ready.
The simmering really allows the chicken to fully absorb the seasoning so even though there is hardly any sauce left, each chicken piece is packed with rich flavours and tasting sweet and salty at the same time.
The Taiwanese version of this dish uses basil leaves to enhance the flavour but as I couldn’t get hold of any in time, I used spring onions instead just for the colour. Bon appetit!