Three cups chicken

Three cups chicken

Man Food
Billy Law

Everyone should add this dish to their cooking repertoire. This recipe is hugely popular in Taiwan, despite its origins belonging to the Jiangxi Province of southern China. Some believe that the ‘three cups’ in the recipe name refers to the three sauces in the original recipe — a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil, but this would have made the dish extremely oily. Another theory has it that the recipe calls for rice wine, soy sauces and sugar in a balanced ratio of 1: 1/2 : 1/4 as in my recipe. If you don’t have a claypot, you can always substitute by using a heavy-based cast-iron pot.


Quantity Ingredient
1 whole free-range chicken, jointed and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus 1 teaspoon extra
5 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, peeled
3 spring onions, cut into 5 cm lengths
2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
250ml shaoxing rice wine
75ml light soy sauce
50ml dark soy sauce
55g sugar
small handful basil leaves
coriander sprigs, for serving
jasmine rice, steamed, for serving


  1. Soak a 2 litre capacity claypot in cold water overnight, then pat dry before using.
  2. Fill a large saucepan with water almost three-quarters full and bring to a rolling boil over a high heat. Add the chicken, reduce the heat to medium and poach for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. This process is to remove all the impurities from the chicken.
  3. Heat the oils in a wok over a medium–high heat until smoking hot, add the ginger and stir-fry until almost dried out and shrivelled up, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, spring onion and chilli, and stir-fry for another minute or until fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken and stir-fry until the pieces are browned all over, about 5 minutes. Add the rice wine, soy sauces and sugar and mix well, then cover with a lid and simmer until the sauce has reduced to only a few tablespoonfuls, about 5 minutes.
  5. Timing is important here. While the chicken is simmering, place the soaked claypot over a medium (not high) heat until it is really hot. Test the heat of the pot by drizzling in a few drops of oil – it should start smoking. When the chicken is ready, turn off all the heat, spoon everything in the wok into the hot claypot – be careful as it will splatter and sizzle. Quickly add the extra sesame oil and the basil leaves. Put the claypot lid on and let the chicken continue cooking with the residual heat for another 20 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.
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