The san1bei1ji1 (三杯雞) or 3 cup chicken that my mom would make for us was always braised. Most restaurants’ renditions of 3 cup chicken is more of a stir-fry (served in a clay pot), has a thicker sauce and is very sweet compared to the homemade kind I’ve had. The kinds at restaurant are definitely not as healthy as the one you would make at home!

3 cup chicken refers to the 3 cups of seasonings that is added to cook the chicken: 1 cup wine, 1 cup sesame oil, and 1 cup soy sauce. Thai basil is also an important ingredient in this dish that helps to brighten up the dish by its sweet and slight licorice-y taste. The chicken is stewed in the richness of the sesame oil, balanced out by some sweetness and spiced up with garlic and ginger. In my opinion, it is a perfect dish to go with rice! In Chinese, we say hen3xia4fan4 (很下飯).

Sadly, I did not have Thai basil in the house, and it’s been really busy these days, so I just made it without the basil :(. I was originally not going to not post this recipe and picture because I worried that people would think it an atrocity to see a picture of basil-less 3 cup chicken, but hopefully you are not deterred by my picture!

San Bei Ji (Three Cup Chicken)
Three Cup Chicken
Serves 2

1 tsp oil
4-5 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, cut into 2-bite sized pieces
3 thin slices of ginger
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp each:
-Shaoxing (or rice) wine
-sesame oil
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce (optional, for color)
1 1/2 cups water
3-4 generous handfuls of Thai basil leaves (as much or little as you want, really)


1) Add 1 tsp to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add oil, chicken, ginger, and garlic, and cook over medium low heat until the chicken is cooked through and no longer raw, about 5-10 minutes. Adjust the heat so that you are not waiting forever, but none of the ingredients should be burning.

2) Add sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.

3) Add wine, sesame oil, soy sauce(s) and water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. In the last 5 minutes, remove the lid and let some of the water evaporate so that the sauce can thicken a bit.

4) Turn off the heat and add the basil.

-This could easily be adapted for a slow cooker or boneless dark meat.
-Italian basil could be used in a real pinch! Better than having none..