Three Cups Chicken

Three Cups Chicken or Sanbeiji is another popular Chinese cuisine dish made out of chicken cooked in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. A dish that originated in Jiangxi province of China now a specialty of Taiwan.

Three Cups Chicken

Three-Cup Chicken or Sanbeiji is another popular Chinese cuisine dish made out of chicken cooked in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. A dish that originated in Jiangxi province of China now a specialty of Taiwan.

The origins state that this dish was invented for Wen Tianxiang (the Song Dynasty national hero) by a prison warden using only chicken, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. It was served to him before his execution as an act of sympathy by the prison warden. The original recipe uses a cup soy sauce, a cup of rice wine, and a cup sesame oil for every chicken used. Basil, garlic and ginger are added to spice things up. It is then cooked initially in an earthenware pot on high heat, then lowered to simmer until sauce nearly dries out.

I think this dish might be where the Philippine adobo came from given the similarity in cooking techniques and the Chinese influence in the Philippines. The first time I tried it I feel like I am eating an adobo with a different twist so this one definitely will be nan easy favourite for those adobo lovers.

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Three Cups Chicken

  • Author: Raymund
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Chinese


Three Cups Chicken or Sanbeiji is another popular Chinese cuisine dish made out of chicken cooked in soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. A dish that originated in Jiangxi province of China now a specialty of Taiwan.


  • 1 kg chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine
  • 1 whole garlic, minced
  • 1/2 thumb sized ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 pcs red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • handful of Thai basil


  1. In a wok add sesame oil then sauté garlic, ginger and pepper
  2. Add chicken and brown on all sides in high heat.
  3. Add soy sauce, rice wine and sugar then bring to a boil.
  4. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, add water if the sauce dries out.
  5. Turn heat to high then add Thai basil, cook for 3 more minutes until sauce nearly dries out.



33 Responses

  1. I love cooking with soy sauce and do it quite often. This is a lovely variation for me to try.
    🙂 Mandy

  2. Sammie says:

    oooh! This is something I have to try Raymund!! I love 三杯鸡 and I never knew how easy it was to make them!! You’re right! It definitely reminds me of adobo!! so delicious!

  3. Sounds and looks great – would it be slighly salty because of all the soy sauce?

  4. That chicken looks gorgeous. I would love this. The chicken would take on a great flavour xx

  5. mjskit says:

    What a great chicken stirfry! And SO easy as well. I miss my Thai basil this year. The grasshopper liked it so much that they had it all eaten by June! When you say “rice wine”, is that sake? Thanks!

  6. Eri says:

    Simple and Yummy! Cheers Reymund!

  7. That chicken looks wonderfully delicious! Great dish !

  8. Karen says:

    This sounds very good…I’ll have to buy another bottle of sesame oil as this recipe calls for more than I have. I have only been using a teaspoon or so when I cook.

  9. This is our must order at this little Taiwanese restaurant in our area. I love the fragrance of basil in this dish. Hmm looks yummy!

  10. I just love the name of this recipe !

  11. Cakewhiz says:

    Chicken is my favorite type of meat to work with…hehe.
    Can i use anything else besides rice wine? I don’t use wine in my cooking for religious reasons…

  12. This looks fabulous!!
    You know I think I have heard about this dish… Now that you have given the recipe, I am so trying its soon… what a fabulous and interesting way to make chicken…
    Hope you re having a great week Raymund!!

  13. Eha says:

    What a fascinating recipe as far as proportions go! Shall definitely try! Really have to test it this way, as the sesame oil f seems inordinately high and I use 1/2 rice wine/1 l/s soy! However, I use this as a fave marinade and pound the thigh fillets into thin steaks, the cooking but about one minute [if that] per side!

  14. jen laceda says:

    I have Taiwanese friends who cooked this for me, and yeah, it reminds me of Chinese-style adobo. I think my grandma had a similar recipe 🙂

  15. Kiran says:

    That looks absolutely delicious. My aunt prepares a similar dish 🙂

  16. I’m gonna print this recipe and try it at home! Thx Ray 😉

  17. Kristy says:

    Already printed this one. I know it will be one that Mr. N will ask me to make over and over again. We’re still making the sticky garlic chicken nearly weekly! 🙂

  18. AnitaTriana says:

    I’m gonna to cook right now, that one of my favorite thank you so much!

  19. I love chicken adobo and this sounds similar and amazing
    any chance I can replace the rice wine with anything none alcoholic?

  20. Mary says:

    By one whole garlic do you mean one whole garlic pod? Or one clove? A pod sounds like a lot of garlic…

  21. Regina Mabalatan says:

    Will try this!

  22. Louie Louie says:

    Not as good as I thought. It was a bit too much on the taste buds; in Tagalog, we say “nakakasuya”. Adobo is far better and more exciting.

    • rsmacaalay says:

      True I love adobo more than this, just imagine the real version where it calls for 1 cup of each. The “nakakasuya” factor also depends on the rice wine and amount of chillies you used. Have you used Xiaoxing wine? Adding more chillies makes it better.

      • Louie Louie says:

        Thanks, man. Yeah, I used the Aji-Mirin rice wine–that could have made it a little too strong. I will give the Chinese rice wine a try. I had tried this dish in Taiwanese restaurants and really loved it. I may also be biased as I grew up with adobo chicken and adobo pork. This three-cups chicken dish reminds me of a Filipino dish called “estufado/estupado” which was not really one of my favorites.

  23. malou says:

    wow! i’ve been thinking about this dish and can’t remember what it was called. Back in the Philippines, this is Ivory Court’s specialty (restaurant in Valenzuela City). Not sure if it’s still existent. Anyway, thanks for this…it’s going to be the inspiration for my next recipe! My mother had been preparing it for us since we’ve tried it oh well back in late ’90s.

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