Three cup chicken

Three cup chicken

San bei ji

Street Food Asia
4–6 As part o f a shared me al
Alan Benson

Here’s a dish that originated in south China’s Jiangxi Province and one that has become incredibly popular in Malaysia. It’s served as ‘confinement food’, fed to women in the weeks before and after they have given birth, to build up their strength and help them properly recuperate. In Malaysia, as in China, there’s an entire repertoire of these confinement dishes and even today, serving them to expectant and new mothers is taken very seriously. This dish is called ‘three cup chicken’ because, originally, cooks used a cup each of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil in the dish. Traditionally it is cooked in a clay pot and this definitely adds another flavour dimension to the chicken. Even though the clay pots look rather fragile, you can actually put them over a naked flame; the trick is, you need to give them a long, overnight soaking in cold water before you first use a new one, otherwise it will most likely crack. Once soaked though, your clay pot will last for years.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
8cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely sliced
450g chicken drumsticks, chopped into 4 cm pieces through the bone
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons kecap manis, (see glossary)
3 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine, (see glossary)
1 large handful, Thai basil leaves
3 spring onions, sliced into 4 cm lengths, to garnish
steamed jasmine rice, to serve


  1. Place a 4 litre clay pot on the stove over a high heat. Add the sesame oil and whole garlic cloves and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the sliced ginger and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add the chopped chicken to the pot and stir-fry on a high heat for 2 minutes or until browned on all sides, then add the light soy sauce, kecap manis and 2 tablespoons of shaoxing rice wine and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium–low and cook for 5–8 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a glossy, sticky sauce and the chicken pieces are cooked through.
  3. Return the heat to high, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of shaoxing rice wine and stir in the basil leaves. Remove from the heat.
  4. Serve the chicken in the clay pot, garnished with the spring onion pieces and accompanied by steamed jasmine rice.
South-East Asian
Street Food
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again