A whole cup of oil? Yes, I know, that sounds excessive. That’s why modern recipes of three cup chicken don’t follow the old ratio. The Shaoxing rice wine is sometimes replaced with sweet rice wine like mirin or sake which gives the dish a flavor reminiscent of Japanese teriyaki.
This lovely chicken dish is considered a classic Taiwanese dish but, like many Taiwanese food, three-cup chicken, or san bei ji, originated in China. Where exactly is a matter of debate.
Unlike many dishes where sesame seed oil is drizzled in after the dish is cooked, in the case of three-cup chicken, the spices are sauteed in sesame seed oil. Ginger and garlic are cooked slowly until the oil soaks up their flavors.
The heat is turned up, chicken and chilies are added to the ginger and garlic, and everything is stir fried just until the chicken meat loses its raw appearance.
Once the chicken chicken meat is no longer pink, soy sauce and rice wine are poured in, and the braising begins.
The garnish of Thai basil leaves toward the end of cooking gives the chicken dish a lovely floral flavor and aroma. I’ll repeat that — Thai basil — and not the sweet basil used for Italian cooking. Thai basil can be cooked without losing its flavor.
- 700 grams chicken wings
- 3 tablespoons sesame seed oil
- 1 one-inch knob ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and lightly pounded
- 2 bird’s eye chilies or one teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons sweet rice wine a combination of sake and mirin was used here
- 1 large handful Thai basil leaves
- Pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels.
- Cut the chicken wings through the joints to separate the drumettes from the wingettes; discard the wing tips.
- Heat the sesame seed oil in a large frying pan.
- Saute the ginger and garlic.
- Turn up the heat to medium-high.
- Lay the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a single layer, on the hot oil.
- Sprinkle in the chilies.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Pour in the soy sauce and rice wine.
- Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and braise the chicken for about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce occasionally; you may need to add more soy sauce.
- Turn up the heat. Stir in half of the Thai basil.
- Continue cooking the chicken, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and reduced. At this point, there will appear to be more oil than sauce.
- Add the rest of the basil leaves. Cook for another minute.
- Serve the three-cup chicken hot with rice.