Three Cup Chicken (Sanbeiji)

Sanbeiji is a popular Chinese dish, most often served in Southern China and Taiwan. The dish derives its name from its three key ingredients: sweet rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Garlic, ginger, fish sauce, honey, and basil round out the flavors in this deceptively simple preparation. Chicken is the most common protein, but pork, and occasionally frog, are also used.

What sets this dish apart is that there is no real trickery involved; the chicken and sauce simmer until the sauce evaporates, then it is removed from heat right when the chicken starts to sizzle and pop. The result is fully-flavored with a delightful texture – no breading or thickener required.

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 tbsp coconut oil
10 cloves garlic, chopped into large chunks
1″ fresh ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

1/4 cup sweet rice wine (michiu, sake, or mirin)
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp tamari (coconut aminos okay)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey or coconut palm sugar

20-25 Thai basil leaves (sweet basil okay)

1. In a wok, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and stir together to incorporate the ingredients; saute, stirring every couple minutes, until the thighs start to brown, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the sauce ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Simmer and reduce the sauce until the sauce is nearly gone, stirring every couple minutes, about 10 minutes total. Just as the sauce disappears and the chicken starts to sizzle, remove from heat, stir in the basil leaves, and serve with white rice or cauliflower rice.

44 thoughts on “Three Cup Chicken (Sanbeiji)

    1. I agree with Babette – you can definitely use sesame oil to initially saute the chicken; I’m not a fan of cooking with too much sesame oil, so that’s why I chose to use coconut oil in the beginning of the recipe.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My man! This is the first recipe I’ve made of yours(found your site 2 days ago) and I am blown away with flavor! My 3 year old is still going at it after asking for more ten times! Thanks for a great dinner.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi,
    sounds yum, and stupendously sweet. We couldn’t do the sweet rice wine
    on SCd.
    Anyone…….. suggestion??
    many thanks,


      1. thank you Russ.
        Keeping SCD in mind, appreciated.
        Your recipes are routinely interesting(! funny juxtaposition of words)
        And tempting, but as in this case, sherry, even dry, is plenty sweet. I over indulge in non SCD treats every so often out of the house. At home, I really am better off sticking to some honey, no sugar/sweet ingredients. Would that be possible? Moving closer to SCD? I wonder.
        thank you for your generosity and for all your work.


  2. I was just wondering what to do with the chicken breasts for dinner tonight. Problem solved. I will need to double or triple the recipe for my large family and to have left overs for lunches. I will probably eat mine on a bed of lightly steamed, shredded Chinese cabbage. Thanks for making me look good in the kitchen.


  3. Made this dish for dinner with chicken breast and adding in some pre-stir-fried mushrooms and bok choy and it was delicious! I did also cook up the chicken in batches because I find the juices end up boiling the chicken in my crowded wok. Thanks so much for this delightfully refreshing Asian recipe!


    1. Glad you liked it! If you use thighs next time around, be sure to allow the chicken to “boil”, as that’s part of the cooking process for this dish – the liquid will evaporate and caramelize! The method doesn’t work as well with breasts, so batch cooking was a good idea.


  4. I made this yesterday and it was sooooo delicious. First there was somehow so much liquid from the chicken, that I was a bit skeptical, but luckily it reduces and all I was left with was perfectly browned, sticky-sweet chicken. So happy I stumbled upon your blog on my way to Paleo eating. :)


  5. This was an easy to make recipe, that was absolutely delicious. My son, who loves Asian food, had three helpings. Thanks for sharing this recipe.


  6. This is seriously delish. I made it first following the recipe, and the second time I made it with ground chicken and threw it in lettuce cups. Soooo good!


  7. I made this tonight. I’ll definitely make this again. Followed it as written. We did not find it sweet at all. Thanks for a great recipe. This is the 4th recipe I’ve made, all are exceptional.


  8. Made this last night for company–they are used to being guinea pigs–lol. Clean bowls all around! We ate this over rice. I also threw in some snap peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking, which worked out well. Thanks for a keeper, Russ!

    Liked by 1 person

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