This is an easy alcohol-free recipe for delicious, comforting Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken or San Bei Ji.
I also want to note that in general cooking wines, including red or white wines, is meant to cook off in the cooking process, leaving behind a concentration of flavour. However, some are just more comfortable with non-alcoholic options, such as those who are cooking for children.
Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken, or San Bei Ji (三杯鸡), is an easy, but ultra flavourful dish that I’ve recently discovered and loved.
The three cup refers to dark soy sauce, sesame oil and shaoxing wine or Chinese rice cooking wine. I do not cook with alcohol, so I found the best alternative for a delicious dish, so if you’re like me then this recipe is for you.
The ingredients required are minimal, but the flavours are deliciously complex. It is also incredibly easy and quick to whip up. Traditionally this is cooked in a claypot, but I’m using a pan for this recipe. You can most definitely replicate this in a claypot if you have one.
The ‘three cup’ refers to a cup of Shaoxing chinese rice wine, a cup of soya sauce and a cup of sesame oil… Though we most certainly do not need that much quantity for this recipe! This recipe is different there is no use of alcohol at all, making this a Halal dish.
Alcohol-free San Bei Ji: Shaoxing Chinese Rice Wine Alternative
Shaoxing wine, or hua tiao chiew, is a Chinese rice wine that is primarily used in cooking. It’s considered one of the more essential ingredients in Chinese cooking. I don’t cook with alcohol so this recipe (and pretty all other recipes on this page) does not use Shaoxing wine.
Instead of wine, I do a combination of chicken stock and apple juice. The chicken stock adds plenty of flavour, while the apple juice adds a hint of fruity sweetness. White grape juice can also be used instead of apple juice. If you only have either or, then use just chicken stock.
I do not recommend using just apple juice, or you will end up with a dish that is very sweet. Speaking of, do use apple juice or white grape juice that has no added sugar!
I used homemade unsalted chicken stock. If using chicken stock cubes, do take note of the salt levels. Either add more water to dilute the saltiness, or use less soy sauce.
In which case, this is a great alternative!
Dark Soy Sauce
The dark soy sauce adds that gorgeous caramelised colour to the dish. When I mention dark soy sauce, I meant Chinese dark soy sauce. Dark sweet soy sauce, refers to Kicap Manis, which is a lot more prevalent in Malay cooking.
Chinese dark soy sauce is also sweet, but not as sweet as kicap manis. Personally I think they are both interchangeable, although I would add less kicap manis than I would the dark soy sauce.
I added light soy sauce in addition to the dark soy sauce since I prefer a less sweet dish. If you like a sweeter dish, then use more dark soy sauce in place of the light soy sauce. Less ingredients!
The final ‘cup’ would be the sesame oil! I love sesame oil, so all the more why I absolutely fell in love with this dish. It’s not an overpowering sesame taste as well; the combination of flavours truly round off the dish nicely. Nothing overpowers.
At the beginning, I added neutral tasting oil to my sesame oil. I find that it helps the sesame oil to retain its flavour longer, but this is optional.
The final ingredient to add complexity to the dish are basil leaves. I usually use Thai basil, but in this recipe I used Italian Basil, which I have a bunch in the pantry at the moment. They are both interchangeable in this dish.
If concerned about overcooking the basil, you can turn off the heat before adding the basil. Stir through to wilt the basil in the residual heat. Since we left the chicken to simmer over low heat, I do not find this step necessary.
The Braising Process
The chicken is left to stew for 15 minutes. At the end of it, the sauce would have reduced, and the chicken would have taken on a dark brown colour on its surface.
If you prefer more sauce, simply braise it at a shorter time period. Alternatively, you can also add a couple tablespoons of water and stir through to get more of a saucy dish.
Watch How to make Three Cup Chicken:
Like this recipe? You might like my Taiwanese XXL Crispy Chicken Cutlet recipe!
San Bei Ji Three Cup Chicken without Shaoxing WineCourse: Recipes
400g boneless Chicken Thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1 tsp Garlic, minced
1 Cup loosely packed Basil
- Three Cup Seasoning Sauce
3 tbsps Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Apple Juice
1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
- Combine the ingredients for the seasoning sauce and keep to one side.
- In a pan, add sesame oil and vegetable oil. Heat over medium heat. Once hot, add ginger and garlic and saute till fragrant.
- Once hot, add the sliced chicken thighs. Stir through, and let the chicken sear until it is not pink anymore.
- Add the seasoning sauce and stir through. Let the sauce come to a boil, before turning down the heat and letting it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Cover with a lid.
- At the 10-15 minute mark, the sauce should have reduced and thickened and the chicken is cooked through.
- Toss in the basil leaves and stir through. Dish is ready once the basil wilts.