Three Cup Chinese Chicken


three cup chicken

As a child of the 80s I have a much more embarrassing photo album than most. As someone with poker straight hair, the typical hair of the 80s teenager was of course volumes aplenty of curly hair and if you weren't blessed with it naturally, it came via the frying of the locks with a spiral perm.

three cup chicken

One evening, after we had come back from my parent's house I found myself tagged in facebook by an old high school friend who lives overseas. It was in a photo from high school. Are you ready for it? I will warn that it simply screams 80s (see my sweater and pink pants). There I am looking quite unlike me now on the bottom right of the picture.

Three Cup Chinese Chicken

Sydney Girls High School-class of 80's fashion ;)

My first reaction when I was tagged was that it wasn't me in the photo. You see I had initially seen it as a thumbnail version and all I looked for was my hair. It wasn't there. Where was the enormous hair? I didn't recognise myself! I laughed so hard when I saw it.

This is the dish that we shared that evening that my mother and I cooked together. It is also called Sanbeji and it was given the name three cup chicken as there are three types of condiments used in it: soy sauce, sesame oil and Chinese rice wine which all combine to create a delicious sauce that just begs to be mopped up with rice. I cook with free range chicken and I think the tender chicken piqued my father's interest in free range poultry as he marvelled at its tenderness (although it probably had as much to do with the bicarb tenderising the meat rather than the free range status).

three cup chicken

The Thai basil adds a lovely slight licoriceness to the end flavour but those licorice phobic needn't worry, it's just the slightest bit and you could always add less than the half bunch specified. But make sure you have plenty of rice. The leftover sauce can also be used to flavour soup stocks which is a tip from my mother. And having been the recipient of her soup noodles, I will say that the sauce adds a a wonderful depth to a clear soup on a cold night!

So tell me Dear Reader, which decade did you grow up in?

three cup chicken

Three Cup Chinese Chicken

  • 1.5 kilos/3 pounds free range chicken fillets or chicken pieces

  • 1.5 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda

  • 16 cloves garlic, peeled (I used Patrice Newell garlic)

  • 12 slices ginger

For gravy:

  • 1/3 cup sesame oil

  • 1/3 cup Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing rice wine often seen in a dark brown bottle with a red label)

  • 1/3 cup light soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/2 bunch Thai sweet basil (with the purple flowers, don't use regular basil)

  • 1/2 cup spring onions, sliced

  • chilli (optional)

three cup chicken

Step 1 - If using larger pieces, chop chicken pieces into smaller pieces if desired (these will cook faster). Rinse chicken and then sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top of the chicken and toss in a bowl to cover the pieces all over. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse chicken under running water ensuring that all traces of bi carb are removed (this can taste terrible otherwise) and then pat dry with paper towels or a clean tea towel (but pop this teatowel in the wash after you use it as you don't want cross contamination).

three cup chicken

Step 2 - Heat a wok or frying pan on medium to high and add a tablespoon of the sesame oil and lightly fry the ginger and garlic. Turn up the heat to high and add the rest of the sesame oil and chicken and brown for a few minutes and then add the rice wine, soy sauce and sugar. Keep gently turning the chicken occasionally and then add the water and reduce the sauce and ensure that the chicken is cooked. Cook uncovered stirring and dunking the chicken pieces in the sauce. It cooks quite quickly and the time just depends on the size of the chicken pieces. It took mine about 10-15 minutes cooking in total. Add optional chilli to taste.

Step 3 - Add the Thai basil leaves and spring onion pieces and serve with boiled rice.

three cup chicken