RECIPES: Taiwanese 3-Cup Chicken [San Bei Ji – 三杯雞 ]

Recipe | David Wu · Curator | Hakan Burcuoğlu · Venue | Rhinofish Noodle Bar · Gear | Leica

Its provenance rooted in the Southeastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, the eponymous three-cup chicken is a humble, yet beloved, staple of Taiwanese cuisine, and one of her top epicurean exports. Traditionally cooked in earthenware, where no two renditions are ever quite the same, it’s the textbook definition of a one-pot wonder, an embodiment of savoury & sweet, and a fine exemplar of what umami is, and ought to be. The method or preparation borders split-personality, and hence requires focus and prowess, necessitating on the onset face-melting heat to properly char—almost burn—the chicken, followed by its coup de grâce—a low-and-slow simmer that transforms night into day, manifesting the sweet out of the [otherwise] sordid.

So, if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the fucking chicken. You’ve been warned.

4 boneless chicken thighs, with skin
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
10 slices of ginger, thinly sliced
1 Thai chili, finely sliced
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Sesame seeds, to garnish.

For Marinade
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine
Fine black pepper, to taste

6 tbsp soy sauce
6 tbsp rice wine
3.5 tbsp of sesame oil

To Finish 
1 tbsp rice wine
A handful of basil leaves

Method [Recipe serves 2-3 people as a main dish]

01. Marinate chicken thighs in a bowl with the sesame oil and rice wine. Add black pepper to taste. Massage gently to allow flavours to penetrate into the meat. Cover and let rest to marinate, 15 minutes.

02. Pan fry the chicken thighs [if using a cast-iron skillet, heat until lightly smoking before starting to fry] skin side down on high heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the skin becomes golden in colour. Flip over the thighs, and continue frying for 1 – 2 more minutes. [For optimum flavour and texture, David advises using a clay pot on live fire]

03. Place the chicken thighs onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes. Discard excess oil from the pan and wipe with kitchen tissue. *At this stage, the chicken is still raw, as the cooking process is not yet complete.

04. In a little bit of oil, sauté the ginger in the same pan on medium-high heat. Just before the ginger starts browning, add the garlic and chilli and sauté everything till golden.

05. Add back the cubed chicken thighs, followed by the soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Sprinkle granulated sugar. Cover the pan with a lid, and let reduce on medium heat, 2 minutes.

06. Before plating, add basil and deglaze with 1 tbsp of rice wine to finish. Garnish with sesame seeds.

07. Sauté bok choy in 1 tbsp of oil on high heat, turning frequently, 2 minutes. Add a splash of water to soften, and continue to sauté 2 more minutes.

08. Enjoy the chicken and bok choy over steamed rice.

09. Welcome to life.

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