Three Cups Chicken (San Bei Ji) is a traditional Taiwanese dish loaded with intense flavors. A great dish that complements a side of rice and veggies. Traditionally, San Be Ji uses bone-in chicken that is simmered in a sauce until thickened, and the chicken is cooked through and tender. Restaurants often deep fry the chicken before cooking it. Depending on how big your chicken pieces are, total cook time can vary between 20-30 minutes. Here, I will show you a stir-fry version that has the exact same taste and only takes 5 minutes to cook.
For this recipe, I opted to use boneless, skin-on chicken thighs. It is easy to prepare and the skin adds a chewy texture and extra flavor that I love. However, if you're not a fan of chicken thighs, chicken breast works fine too. I start by giving the chicken a quick marinade. 30 minutes is sufficient. You can even skip this step if you're in a hurry.
Before you start to stir fry, toss the chicken in a bit of cornstarch. This accomplishes two things. It tenderizes the chicken and slightly thickens the sauce in the final dish. The cornstarch is a secret ingredient almost all Asian restaurants use. It does a great job of tenderizing meat, a method called "velveting." But don’t overdo it. Asian restaurants tend to add an excessive amount of cornstarch, to the point where the meat doesn’t feel or taste like meat anymore. A very light dredge is all you need.
The rest of the steps are straightforward. Lightly fry your aromatics, then add the chicken and sear on both sides. There is no need to completely cook the chicken at this step. Add your sauce mixture and basil. Simmer for a couple minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
There you have it, Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) stir-fry edition. Quick and easy!
- 1 lb chicken thighs, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 inch knob of ginger, julienned
- 1 handful basil
- a light drizzle of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the sliced chicken and mix well. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you wish.
- When you're ready to cook, add the cornstarch to the chicken and mix very well. Break up any chunks of cornstarch.
- Heat a wok or skillet over high heat, when it gets smoky, add ginger and garlic. Stir for about 5-10 seconds until the garlic begins to change color. Be careful not burn the garlic.
- Push the garlic and ginger to the edges of the pan and add a bit more oil. Add the marinated chicken and spread out the pieces into a single layer. Leave the chicken untouched and allow it to brown for a minute or so.
- Keep an eye on the garlic and ginger, toss them around a bit so they don't burn.
- When the chicken has developed a nice sear, flip it and allow it to sear on the other side for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the sauce mixture and basil. Stir constantly until it slightly thickens and the chicken is cooked through. Turn off the heat.
- Add a light drizzle of sesame oil. Give it a final stir then serve.