Three cup chicken (san bei ji) – a Chinese recipe with basil

One of the most common questions associated with this recipe is: why is it called three cup chicken? Simply because it’s mainly flavoured with 3 cups: 1 cup of sesame oil, 1 cup of soy sauce and 1 cup of rice wine. That’s the idea anyway! In reality, you don’t want to use a full cup of everything – otherwise it will be far too oily and salty.

The other important ingredients are ginger, garlic, chillie (as always) and, uncommonly for Chinese recipes, basil. Basil is an ingredient introduced when the recipe became popular in Taiwan, and it really adds a little extra flavour to the dish.You can use your favourite cuts of chicken for this, and many people prefer it with the skin on as it will get crispy when fried. I’m using skinless chicken thighs. This takes very little time to prep and around 20 mins to cook. Will serve 2-3.


250-300g chicken
1 spring onion

10 slices of ginger
70ml sesame oil
1 tbsp of chopped garlic

1 dried red chili, chopped
100ml soy sauce
150ml rice wine
1 tbsp white sugar
Handful of basil

You’ll also need some cooking oil!

Step 1: chop the chicken into more bite-sized pieces, around 1 inch across. Separate the whites and greens of the spring onion, chop the whites into 1 inch pieces and chop the greens more finely.


Step 2: heat a little cooking oil in a pan until sizzling and fry the ginger and chicken until browning on the surface. Remove from the pan and drain from the oil.

Step 3: in a separate pan, add the sesame oil, and once hot, add the fried ginger, chopped garlic, whites of the spring onion and stir fry for 30 seconds. Then add the chicken and chili and stir fry on high heat.

Step 4: once the chicken looks roughly cooked and the pan in getting dry, which may take 2-3 minutes, add the soy sauce, rice white and sugar and stir well. Turn onto low heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the juice is nearly gone.


Step 5: remove the lid, add the greens of the spring onion, the basil and stir, then serve!


It’s such a simple recipe, and very tasty. If you prefer it without the basil, then you can leave it out and it’d have a more traditional, Mainland China taste. What do you think?



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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Andrew Marco says:

    I love three cup chicken, that touch of basil is so amazing and it really elevates the dish 🙂

    I was wondering if you were on FB at all? It would be amazing if you could share your recipe in our group, would love for you to join our community of food lovers! Check us out here:


    1. Thank you! We haven’t set up on Facebook just yet, and are mainly on Twitter and Instagram at the moment, but that group looks good, and we’ll definitely drop by once we have everything set up!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew Marco says:

    awesome! Let me know when you do end up joining, looking forward to have you in the community 🙂


  3. This looks great. I have never had 3 cup chicken. Wrote down the recipe for future use. Look forward to reading more of your posts.


    1. Thank you very much! Let us know how it goes when you cook it!

      Liked by 1 person

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