Three-Cup Chicken

March/April 2013

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While there are dozens of variations on this classic Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken recipe, the “three-cup” in the title refers to the fact that this healthy chicken recipe is almost always made with equal parts soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and rice vinegar (and usually sesame oil). The sauce for Three-Cup Chicken develops a wonderfully pungent flavor from toasted Sichuan peppercorns and star anise; look for them in Asian markets or online from Serve the chicken and sauce over rice.

Three-Cup Chicken

Makes: 4 servings, 2 pieces chicken & 1/3 cup sauce each

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  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shao Hsing or Shaoxing) or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 bunch scallions, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 chicken drumsticks, skin removed (see Tip)
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and trimmed
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped, preferably Thai basil


  1. Toast peppercorns in a large flat-bottomed carbon-steel wok or heavy skillet over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Crush in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Set aside near the stove.
  2. Meanwhile, combine broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine (or sherry), sesame oil, honey (or sugar) and star anise in a medium bowl. Finely chop enough scallions to equal 2 tablespoons and reserve for garnish; cut the remaining scallions into 2-inch lengths. Place the sauce and scallion pieces near the stove.
  3. Heat canola oil in the wok (or skillet) over high heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-high; add 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook for 3 minutes on the other side, reducing the heat as needed if the pan gets too hot. Transfer the chicken to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken; remove to the plate. Add the scallion pieces, garlic and ginger to the pan; cook, stirring once or twice, until they begin to brown, about 1 minute. Add the crushed peppercorns and stir for 5 seconds. Add the reserved sauce and cook 2 minutes. Add the chicken; stir to coat with the sauce.
  4. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook, turning the chicken halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in basil leaves and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute more. Garnish with the chopped scallions and chopped basil.

Tips & Notes

  • To remove the skin from chicken drumsticks, grip skin from the meaty end of the drumstick with a paper towel and pull down toward the exposed bone until it comes off completely.


Per serving: 346 calories; 18 g fat (3 g sat, 8 g mono); 90 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 9 g added sugars; 29 g protein; 1 g fiber; 594 mg sodium; 404 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Zinc (21% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Exchanges: 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1/2 vegetable, 4 lean meat, 2 fat

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Recipe Categories

Type of Dish
Main dish, poultry
Ease of Preparation
Total Time
1 hour or less
Main Ingredient
Preparation/ Technique

March/April 2013
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