Three Cup Chicken, Taiwanese-Style • Sanbeiji • 三杯鸡

Three Cup Chicken  Fae's Twist & Tango

Sanbeiji   (sān bēi jī),   literally  ‘three-cup chicken’  is a popular chicken dish in Chinese cuisine.
The dish originates from the Jiangxi province of southern China, and is a specialty of Ningdu.
However, it has become especially popular in Taiwan, so much so that it is said, a restaurant that cannot cook Sanbeiji is not a true Taiwanese restaurant.

There are several versions of the origins of  ‘three-cup chicken’.  These stories often involve a cook who placed three cups of sauces into an earthenware pot and simmered them for a long time.  One version of the story relates to the Song Dynasty, national hero, Wen Tianxiang, a Jiangxi native. A sympathetic prison warden cooked the dish for him, using the limited resources available, before Tianxiang’s execution.

The dish derives its name from, for each chicken, a cup each of soy-sauce, sesame oil and rice wine are added. Lin Shangquan, a famous chef in Taiwan, believes that the traditional recipe called for a cup each of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, with added ginger, garlic, and basil.  I’m happy with chef Shangquan’s story. (Traditional Chinese or Japanese cup is equivalent  3/4 cup U.S. = 180 ml)

Sanbeiji is served dry with no liquid’y sauce… that is, the dish is cooked in an earthenware pot on high heat until all the sauce evaporates and is absorbed by the chicken. When it is served at the table, the chicken should be sizzling—even popping—on the cusp of burning. This gives the chicken a crispier texture and richer flavor. The dish is then eaten with either steamed rice or rice congee.    [Excerpts from Wikipedia]

Sanbeiji • 三杯鸡 • Three Cup Chicken, Taiwanese-Style

  • Servings: 4 ~ 5
  • Time: < 1 Hr
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Recipe by:    Fae’s Twist & Tango (
Three Cup Chicken  Fae's Twist & Tango
◊  Unlike many other Asian-style meals, the sauce in this dish is cooked until it is fully absorbed by the chicken, which also provides a crispier texture.
◊  Don’t be tempted to use vegetables in this dish. The result is not the authentic flavor expected.
◊  Although it will not make it authentic/traditional either, if desired for variety, just add roasted cashews or peanuts at the end.


•   1/2 ~ 3/4 cup water
•   3  Tbsp low sodium soy-sauce
•   3  Tbsp sesame oil
•   3 Tbsp sugar
•   675 gr/1.5 lb boneless chicken thighs, weight after  skin and fat removed, cut in 5cm/2″ pieces
•   3 tsp peanut or vegetable oil,  divided
•   7.5 cm/3″  knob ginger, peeled and sliced 3mm/ 1/8″ thick
•   12 cloves garlic, peeled whole
•   (optional for color)  2   red jalapeno chili (sweet), de-seeded and sliced
•   36 large Thai or regular basil leaves, whole


◊  In a small bowl, mix together, water (1/2 cup only), soy-sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and set aside.

◊  In a deep, medium-large, non-stick pot (or wok), on medium, heat 2 tsp peanut oil. Add chicken pieces and sauté until lightly browned on all sides. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside.

◊  Turn on the stove exhaust fan. Very important!

◊  In the same pot, on medium, heat 1 tsp peanut oil  (if any oil is left from sautéing of the chicken, use it instead).  Add ginger, garlic, and stir until fragrant (1 minute).

◊  Add prepared sauce mix and chicken pieces. Slightly lower the heat  and simmer for 15 minutes (at this point, liquid level is very low. If liquid is low before 15 minute mark, add a little water, no more than 1/4 cup to assure chicken is cooked).

◊  When the liquid level is very low, remain near the pot, since the liquid quickly evaporates and the meat/garlic/ginger go into frying mode. Stir constantly, so all the liquid is absorbed and caramelized. Turn off the heat.

◊  Add jalapeno and basil, stir briefly. At this point oil is separated. It is a preference to dish out with oil, or without. Plate in a platter or a shallow bowl.   Serve with steamed rice.

~   食福 / chiah hok  –  Eat well, enjoy good food!   ~

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  1. A totally new kinda chicken recipe to me! Can’t wait to try it :) And the picture is crazy good…drool inducing indeed :)

  2. What a delicious looking glaze there!

  3. This dish looks stunning, Fae! I have to admit that I have never ventured myself into the Chinese cuisine although I love it. The flavors and the techniques are so far away from what I’m used to. It’s intimidating to me. I’m bookmarking this. I might find the courage someday … :-)

    1. Sweet Francesca, I thought like that about many dishes. You remember me making risotto? :D It wasn’t difficult at all, only attentiveness. This dish is the same. All its ingredients are available in almost every home, don’t you think! :D )))

  4. Can you believe I’ve never made this dish? Right, must try this, the idea of crispy sizzling chicken is too good to pass up!

    1. Oh my, How you described it, I want to make it again soon. :P

  5. Ahh, I need to make this and serve it over steaming jasmine rice. Thank you for the recipe, Fae! You never disappoint!

    1. Patty, Did you make it over the weekend? :P

      1. Not yet, Fae! I’m planning on making it tomorrow! Too many leftovers to cook until then! :D

  6. Love this Fae and it looks beautiful plated !

    1. Thank you, Lea! I have a long list of food I want to blog, and then, I crave for something and I make. The list keeps getting longer and I am keep making other dishes. :D )))

  7. This looks/ sounds great; right up my hubby’s alley too. I wonder what would happen if you just put a whole chicken in a pot with one cup each soy, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar? I am glad I read your recipe or else that is what I might have done…

    How do I bookmark a recipe? This one looks to be a keeper.

    1. - The key is, sanbeiji is served “dry with no liquid’y sauce… chicken should be sizzling—even popping—on the cusp of burning”. You may use bone in chicken thighs (best to cut-off the bone part to have it like a ball) and/or end part of chicken wings, and when the liquid has been absorbed, be able to stir-fry them in the oil that has been separated.
      - Probably at the top right of your Explorer (a star outside of the url address bar), Chrome (a star in the url address bar) or whatever application you are using, you see something in the nature of ‘bookmark’. Click on it and it is self explanatory after that. If you have a printer, my recipe is printable.

  8. looks so good

  9. Fae, this looks amazing! All I kept thinking as I was reading this was yum.. oh yum… :-) I must give this one a try… very SOON!! Lovely post.. :-)

    1. Thank you, Prudy, it is as good as you can imagine it! :D )))

  10. Wow, Fae – how exotic! Basil is such a great ingredient – I bet it adds such lovely flavor here. This looks so delicious!

    1. I cannot say it well, but what we like about the basil in this dish is, a leaf of basil in between each bite is like refreshing your palate and again having the tasty meat, ginger and garlic. Oh, my mouth is watering. :P

  11. I made similar dishes like this, invented by myself but never knew that it is called this ay! It is very delicious, I know! x

    1. You are funny, Sweet Sophie. :D )))

  12. I am going to make this! Looks delish! Thank you Fae~

    1. Great! You are going to be pleased. :D

  13. Victoria · · Reply

    Oh my, this looks fabulous!

    1. Thank you, Victoria! It smells good and it tastes fabulous, as you said! :D )))


  15. This sounds amazingly flavorful. I’m bookmarking this one for an eventual “Look, I made it” post. :-) Thanks for bringing this to the fiesta, Fae! Talk to you soon! XOXO

  16. Oooh. This is a dish I love ordering but never thought much about cooking. Thanks for sharing!

    1. A very easy dish to make and you would add it to your frequent dish list. :D

  17. What a lovely version of the dish looking so appetizing! It does look ‘heavy’ on the garlic and gingeer, but since I use large quantities of each every day shall try exactly how you have presented it!!

    1. First time I made it, I thought so too. Second time I made it, I increased the amount further, because they were so good. :P

  18. Beautiful pictures! I am saving this recipe it sounds wonderful :)

    1. You would truly love it! :P

  19. Fae, this is such a beautiful dish to bring to the party! I can just smell the sesame,ginger and garlic right now. I love these flavours so much!

    1. Thank you. You got it! :D )))

  20. Reblogged this on Simplexvita and commented:
    This looks delicious!

    1. And, it really tastes good too! :P

  21. What a gorgeous dish, Fae. The story behind the name is fascinating. I love that the flavors are complex, yet not overwhelming. These are ingredients that don’t compete with each other – and that almost every cook has on hand. Thank you for sharing! Best, Shanna

    1. Exactly, Shanna! Almost everyone has all the ingredients at hand. It looks like too much garlic and ginger, but at the end, none of the ingredients are overpowering but had a role to make this dish so delicious. :P

      1. There is no such thing as too much garlic and ginger, Fae. ;-) They are the starring roles in the dish, at least in my book. I will try this for dinner one night next week. I love your recipes.

      2. You are a JOY! :D )))

  22. Gorgeous dish and beautiful photo… mmm mmm! :)

    1. Thank you! This simple dish has such a decadent taste. :P

  23. Fae, stunning as usual. Wow. Garlic, ginger, jalapenos. YUM! And that photo with fresh basil. You really have such a wide array of talents.

    1. Thank you, Amanda. When it comes to food, one does anything necessary. :D )))

  24. There will be a line forming at the party to sample your chicken. The aroma alone will have everyone wanting a taste. :)

    1. I, myself would be in line too! :D )))

  25. This looks gorgeous!

    1. Thank you, Josephine. :D

  26. It sounds delicious!

    1. Oh, you should give it a try. I’m sure you have all the ingredients at hand. :P

  27. See you at the party xx

    1. Hi Melissa! See you there. :D )))


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