Whether or not you’ve heard of “Three Cup Chicken,” you will like it. It’s so tasty that it’s hard not to. With the help of my grandma, I came up with this recipe, so it has the coveted grandma stamp of approval!

What is Three-Cup Chicken?

“San Bei Ji,” which means “Three Cup Chicken,” is a popular standard dish in China and Taiwan. The name comes from how it’s made: One cup of rice wine, one cup of soy sauce, and one cup of sesame oil make up the sauce.

It’s like how pound cake got its name because the old recipes called for a pound of flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. But you’ll notice that our version doesn’t use three full cups of anything. That recipe for 3 cups of chicken must have made a TON of chicken.

Developing Our Family’s Recipe

No two families make Three Cup Chicken the same way, but the basic recipe uses these three sauce ingredients to make a thick, dark, reduced syrup that soaks right into the chicken.

It’s a straightforward recipe because all you do is chop and drop. It’s a one-pot meal that you can make faster than saying, “kick in the pants.”

Even my mom’s and grandmother’s versions of San Bei Ji are slightly different. My mom likes to put in a lot of scallions and simmer them with the chicken until they get sweet and sticky.

On the other hand, my grandmother adds Thai basil, which is a more exotic touch. I’m just telling you what it looks like Wikipedia is telling me. I only came for the food. In any case, I agree with that food choice 100 percent!

You’ll also notice that the color of our three-cup chicken is very dark and rich. This is a matter of taste. The dark soy sauce will give the dish its dark color. Just add less if you want your dish to be lighter. So, here is the recipe!


  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 6 chunks of ginger
  • 5 heads of garlic (sliced)
  • 1 dried chili (halved)
  • 2 1/4 pounds of chicken wings (cut where the drumette and the wingette meet, and throw away the tips). You can also use 1 3/4 pounds (800g) of chicken drumettes and wingettes that have already been cut up.
  • 14 cups of hot water
  • 1/4 cup of Shaoxing
  • 2–5 teaspoons of dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Cut two scallions into 2-inch/5cm lengths or a small bunch of Thai basil leaves.


  1. Start by heating your wok over medium heat and adding the sesame oil, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, and red chili. Let the scents soak into the oil for a few minutes.
  2. Then slowly turn the stove up to high and put all the chicken wings in one layer in the wok. Carefully sear the chicken until both sides are golden brown. Then, add 1/4 cup warm water, 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce (2–5 teaspoons, depending on how dark you want the dish to be), 1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons sugar.
  3. Stir and put a lid on the wok.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and let the chicken cook for 15 minutes to ensure it’s done (cook for 20 minutes if you want the chicken to be more tender).
  5. Then, take off the lid and turn up the heat to reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it sticks to the chicken and gives it a rich, dark color. Make sure to move the chicken around, so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Add your Thai basil and scallions and cook for another minute until the basil and scallions have wilted.
  7. Serve!
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