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Poslfit Recipes: Three-Cup Chicken

Rated 5/5 based on 3 family/friend reviews
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
120 mL (½ c.) unseasoned rice wine (I.e., what the Japanese call saké.)
60 mL (¼ c.) regular soy sauce (Low-sodium is fine, but nothing that’s described as sweetened or dark.)
12 g (1 T) white sugar (Any sugar is fine, as long as it dissolves in the rice wine and soy sauce.)
60 mL (¼ c.) Asian sesame oil (This is important for flavour and cooking. Do not skimp or substitute. If you don’t like sesame oil, don’t make this dish.)
40 mg or 20–30 mm (1") of a fat piece of fresh, mature ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds (Mature ginger or hineshoga is the type readily available in most supermarkets.)
70 mg or 12–15 medium garlic cloves (These should end up soft and creamy at the end, so it’s important that they all be medium-sized ones. You can use more small ones, but then they’ll disappear in the cooking and you’ll miss out. Or you can chop up large cloves, but then they lose their flavour into the sauce. And of course, if you don’t like garlic, don’t make this recipe.)
5 mg or 1–3 bird’s-eye chili peppers, stemmed and halved (Three peppers will make it quite spicy. Start with one pepper if you’re not sure. Always keep a bag of these in your freezer so you don’t run out.)
1 kg (2 lbs.) bone-in skin-on pieces of chicken chopped into pieces no more than about 8 cm (3") long (My local Chinese supermarket sells bags of drumsticks that are ideal for this purpose. The pieces should be small enough that you can comfortably pick one up with a pair of chopsticks. The quantity should be enough to loosely fill up your frying pan. You could use thighs halved longitudinally, or wings split at the joint.)
40 g washed Thai basil leaves (This corresponds to what my local Chinese supermarket sells in one package.)
(optional) 10 ramp (wild leek) leaves, green parts only, washed (I add these when they’re in season.)
4 bowls of steamed white rice (You could in theory serve this with some other starch, but white rice would be most authentic.)
[photo of three cup chicken in a frying pan]
This is our household recipe, adapted slightly from one originally posted on Serious Eats, itself describing the classic Taiwanese dish San Bei Ji (三杯鷄). Historically, the recipe is supposed to use one cup each of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine, but everyone has their own version. If you like this recipe, please experiment. Some people use green onions instead of Thai basil; some use different proportions of different types of soy sauce and rice wine.
Serves 4 North Americans. I’ve seen similar quantities described as serving 8 Asians, but those would clearly not be the teenage boys I started cooking this recipe for. You can halve the quantities to serve two, but you’ll need to cook it in a smaller pan to get everything in proper contact with the oil.
Prepare all ingredients as indicated above. Whisk the rice wine, soy sauce and sugar together in a bowl.
Heat sesame oil in a large frying pan until shimmering.
Add ginger, garlic and chilis. Stir while cooking for about a minute to get aromatic flavours into the oil, until you can clearly smell the ginger.
Add the rice wine, soy sauce and sugar, and wait until it comes to a boil to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
Reduce heat to a simmer, and add the chicken. Cook covered, moving the chicken every three minutes. Every time you move the chicken, be careful not to detach its skin further, and flip it over so that the side that was on the bottom is now on the top. If your heat source is not even, then every second time that you move the chicken, move the chicken from the colder areas to the hotter areas and vice versa.
If adding ramp leaves, spread them around the outside of the pan at the three-minute mark, and mix them into the sauce at the nine- or 12-minute mark depending on how done they are looking.
When the chicken is done (I check with my Thermapen), which should be at the 12- or 15-minute mark, stir in the Thai basil, remove from heat, serve with rice.