3 Cups Chicken Recipe

3 Cups Chicken

This dish is another classic Chinese dish that originally calls for 1 cup each of 3 main ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine, hence the name 3 Cups chicken (Sam Pui Kai)! However,1 cup of each ingredient is quite a bit too much for me. Imagine having a whole cup of sesame oil in there! You’d have a circle of oil lubing your mouth if you did that. Not too pleasant!

So, I looked up some recipes and decided to adapt all the different recipes into my own (heavily borrowing from Amy Beh’s original recipe on kuali.com). After a bit of experimenting I find that instead of 3 cups of everything, it’s actually better to have one part sesame oil to two parts soy sauce to three parts rice wine (1:2:3 chicken might be a more appropriate name ^_^).

Boost the Flavor

The original recipe does not call for chilies to be added but I find that the chilies add a very nice heat element that complements all the other components in this 3 cups chicken recipe. If you cannot handle the heat or are cooking for children, feel free to leave it out.

I also added some thick soy sauce because I find that the dark soy adds another tasty note to the entire dish besides coloring the food up a bit more (which always makes it more appetizing). If you use the Koon Chun brand thick soy sauce which I recommend, the 3 cups chicken dish takes on some deep caramel flavors as well.

Koon Chun Thick Soy Sauce

Koon Chun Thick Soy Sauce

The combined flavors in this 3 cups chicken dish makes it a winner in my home. And the aroma of sesame oil is heady without being overwhelming, as it would be if you used the original amount called for. If you do like more of a sesame oil flavor, do feel free to up the amount.

3 Cups Chicken Recipe


2 1/2-3 lbs chicken, cut into 12 pieces, or use chicken pieces (dark thigh meat is good)
40ml toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp garlic, coarsely chopped, about 3-4 cloves
1 1/2 inches ginger, sliced thin
6-7 stalks green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
7-8 pieces dried chilies, soaked in water for 10 mins (depending on how spicy you like your dish, you might want to cut the amount, or take out the seeds)

1 Tbsp sesame oil or shallot oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp thick soy sauce
80ml soy sauce
120ml Shao Hsing Hua Tiau wine
1 Tbsp sugar or to taste
50ml water (originally the recipe calls for 100ml water but I find that it takes too long for the sauce to reduce with so much water so I cut it in half)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

1. Marinate chicken with sesame oil/shallot oil and soy sauce for at least 1 hour or more before cooking.
2. On medium heat, saute garlic, ginger, half of the green onions, and dried chillies in sesame oil till fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Add chicken and toss for another 2-3 minutes, till lightly browned.


3. Pour in seasoning ingredients except salt and let it come to a boil.


4. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Then continue to simmer uncovered, for another 15 minutes or more (till sauce has reduced by about half and chicken is tender). Stir occasionally while simmering.
5. When dish is almost done, add the rest of the green onions. Season with salt to taste (might not be necessary depending on how salty your soy sauce is).

3 Cups Chicken

 3 Cups Chicken

Serve with rice and enjoy!

Cheers, Annie

22 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Pearl says:

    >omgosh! shan bei ji!

  2. pigpigscorner says:

    >I looove this dish! Goes really well with white rice! I normally add basil to this dish, gives it a very nice flavour and aroma.

  3. Teresa Cordero Cordell says:

    >WOW! What a magnificent recipe. We love Chinese food in our house. We’re also eating alot more chicken than red meat. So this one is perfect. Thanks for the info on the thick soy sauce. Didn’t realize it was available. Great recipe you guys.

  4. jesse says:

    >OMG, SAN BEI JI!!!! Ahh!!! And I love the variations you’ve made… 1 cup of sesame oil IS really too much for any dish. Mmm!

  5. duodishes says:

    >The chilis are a great extra ingredient. A pop of spice and color!

  6. Regina says:

    >oh, my goodness. i *love* san bei ji! thanks for sharing how to make it – will definitely try this one at home.

  7. Agirlhastoeat says:

    >Your photos look fantastic! Definitely would like to try some of your recipes!

  8. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    >What a big pan full of yummy-looking chicken! Am I invited to this feast? ;)

    (The first time we made this dish, we took the 3 cups literally and almost fainted from the sesame oil!)

    Thanks for the tip re dark soya. Will try that out soon.

  9. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    >This chicken looks fantastic! I think I’ll try it with boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces, and serve it as part of a buffet.

  10. noobcook says:

    >I love your 1:2:3 concept … very delicious looking and I wish I can have some now ;p

  11. smile4me8p says:

    >ooooo….looks really easy. i’ll have to try this one soon!

  12. My Taste Heaven says:

    >looks great!
    but where can i buy the koon chun thick soy sauce in Penang,Malaysia??

  13. Peter M says:

    >Gorgeous yet so very easy…sesame oil always gets me…Umm.

  14. Dorach says:

    >Salivating & stomach growling just from reading this, and it's only mid afternoon for me at work now! Can imagine how aromatic your kitchen must've been. Love the homely meals featured on this blog :) Do you know if pregnant ladies can eat dishes cooked with Shao Hsing wine? what with trying to avoid alcohol, etc?

  15. beachlover says:

    >looking at your 3 pei chi make me hungry now! love to eat with chili padi!

  16. Emily says:

    >Looks superb! I like to one part rice wine, two parts oyster sauce and three parts soy with my stirfry!
    Great site, by the way!

  17. Nate-n-Annie says:

    >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @pigpigscorner – ooh, I think some Thai basil would really go well with this. Thanks for the inspiration!

    @Teresa – you’re welcome. Hope you get to try out the recipe!

    @Regina – let us know how it turns out for you!

    @Agirlhastoeat – you’re welcome. Would love to hear your feedback on the recipe.

    @JS – anytime you guys are down here in the Bay Area, just let us know!

    @smile4me8p – Make it for us?

    @MyTasteHeaven – I think you’ll have to find a brand local to Penang. Shouldn’t be too hard to find!

    @Dorach – if it’s a little bit of alcohol and a lot of boiling / cooking, then the alcohol will cook off. It should be safe.

    @beachlover – oooh, chili padi! Yum.

    @Emily – thank you!

  18. tigerfish says:

    >I’ve come to learn that in Taiwan, basil is a must for this dish.

  19. Carolyn Jung says:

    >One cup of sesame oil? Whoa, baby! That would be quite intense. I much prefer your version instead. Much more balanced.

  20. Nate-n-Annie says:

    >@tigerfish – thanks for the insight!

    @carolyn – thank you. Try it and see how Meat Boy likes it!

  21. Kevin says:

    >That chicken looks tasty!

  22. Beck says:

    >Truly excellent recipe Nate & Annie! Perfect instructions too, you really can't go wrong. We had this for dinner tonight and scoffed this disturbingly quickly… I did add a bunch of Thai basil leaves to this dish at the end (as per my review on my blog) just because I love them. I'm going to make this for our local soup kitchen next week and can guarantee that our guests will love this! I'm also going to add some unsalted cashews just to make it extra special. This is a brilliantly simple dish that should please everyone's tastes – thanks for sharing your lovely dish!

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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