Taiwanese Scallops with Basil (‘3 Cup’ Scallops)

One of my favorite dishes in Taiwan was ‘3 cup’ scallops. The name refers to the sauce, which includes equal amounts of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. But the star of the dish is the Taiwanese basil, which is known outside of Taiwan as Thai Basil. This type of basil has an anise or licorice type of flavor and is not the same as regular (Italian) basil. It is also not the same as Thai holy basil. The Taiwanese basil works very well with the scallops and the sauce is delicious. The hardest part may be to find the Thai basil. Otherwise, preparing this dish is pretty straightforward and quick.

You may have noticed a lot of Taiwanese recipes lately. We’ve really fallen in love with Taiwanese food and I can’t wait to go back, if only for the food.


For 2 servings

300 grams (.66 lb) sea scallops

a generous handful of Thai basil leaves (about 40 grams, 1.4 oz)

2 Tbsp shaoxing rice wine

2 Tbsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce (I used dark soy sauce here, but light soy sauce or a mixture would also work)

1 shallot or scallion/green onion, thinly sliced

1 red chilli pepper (or more or less to taste), thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

5 cm (2″) of ginger, thinly sliced

1 tsp sugar, optional

2 Tbsp cooking oil


When we had this in Taiwan the scallops were pretty small and they used whole scallops. The scallops I used here were large, so I cut them into halves or quarters.

In any case, pat the scallops dry with paper towels.

Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil (and sugar, if using) in a bowl.

Take the basil leaves off the stems and discard the stems. Prepare the ginger, shallots/scallions, chilli, and garlic.

I used a carbon steel frying pan because it works better on my induction hob than a wok. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and add the ginger, shallot/scallions, and chilli.

Stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, and stir fry for 30 seconds longer. The garlic is added later to make sure it won’t brown, as that would make it bitter.

Now add the scallops and continue to stir fry.

As soon as the scallops have some color on them (this may not be feasible if they are not fresh, so make sure not to overcook them), add the sauce.

Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit and the scallops are barely cooked through. Do not overcook the scallops, as they will become tough and rubbery.

Turn off the heat and add the basil.

Stir until the basil has just wilted.

Serve at once.

Wine pairing

As with many similar dishes, this is great with a dry gewurztraminer from Alto Adige or Alsace.



This white asparagus and goat cheese soup is elegant, delicious, and ridiculously simple. It requires only two ingredients (if you don’t count water, salt and pepper,  and the parsley that I used for garnish) and not much skill to prepare.


11 thoughts on “Taiwanese Scallops with Basil (‘3 Cup’ Scallops)

  1. Wonderful dish. I had this often while living in Asia, just love it 🙂
    I personally like to reduce the sesame oil (If using toasted) by 4/5th),
    but this is strictly based on my personal taste preference.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic! Keep the Taiwanese food coming if you have any more recipes! Just been to check in my herb garden: mine is Thai holy basil . . . so research ! But am in with Hans Susser: want to try both ways, but I would reduce the sesame oil also . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi, Stephan. Nicely done! I’m from China. Of all the tree cup dishes, the three cup chicken is the most popular and classic one. I’ve been thinking about making a sous vide version of the three cup chicken. But there are a couple of details to work out. for example, should I just sous vide the whole chicken leg plain and simple and then chop it into pieces and cook them quickly in the three cup liquids? or sous vide the leg with the three cup liquids and pour out the liquids and reduce them and then put in the chopped pieces? or more along the traditional lines, saute the ginger slices in sesame oil until browned, let cool and put the oil/ginger with the leg into the bag and sous vide, then pour out the liquids, add soy sauce and rice wine, reduce them and then put in the chopped pieces? I would like to pick your brilliant brain on this one. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To revive and older recipe…..
    Since the Thai basal is impossible to find here, and fennel has that anise flavor also, I was wondering how you’d suggest swapping them in this dish.
    Thanks, Hal


    1. Hi Hal, sorry for the slow response. I have not really found a suitable substitute for Thai basil. Fennel has a much lighter flavor. You may be able to buy seeds and grow your own?


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