We love Taiwanese food so much that it keeps coming on the blog (and that we are already thinking about when to there again). We liked the “three cup” scallops and squid so much, that I decided to try it with chicken as well (which is probably the most common version of this dish). Although the name refers to the three liquid components of the sauce (soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil), the star of this dish is the Thai basil (which is called Taiwanese basil in Taiwan), also known as horapha. Compared to regular (Italian) basil, it has a pronounced licorice/aniseed flavor that works very well with the other ingredients and especially the ginger. Other than the name suggests, I prefer to use less sesame oil rather than the same quantity as the soy sauce and rice wine, as sesame oil has a very pronounced flavor (especially toasted sesame oil) and I replace the remaining oil with neutral oil like soy, peanut, or canola.
Another key to great three cup chicken is to use chicken thigh meat instead of chicken breast, and to make sure not to overcook it. Some recipes will tell you to simmer the chicken in the sauce for 15 minutes, and that will definitely dry out the chicken. In just a couple of minutes the chicken will be cooked through, tender, and very juicy. As long as you have access to Thai basil, this is a quick and easy dish that can be ready in less than 20 minutes.
For 2 servings
300 grams (.66 lb) boneless and skinless chicken thigh, in bite size pieces
about 40 grams (1.5 oz) Thai basil, leaves only (I used a bunch that was 80 grams including the stems)
60 ml (1/4 cup) light soy sauce
60 ml (1/4 cup) shaoxing rice wine
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1 Tbsp minced red chillies, or to taste
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic
4 Tbsp minced shallots or scallions/green onions
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the shallots, ginger, and chilli.
Stir fry until the aromatics start to color, then add the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds longer.
Now add the chicken.
Stir fry until the chicken is slightly golden on all sides and you see no more raw chicken.
Now is a good time to replace whatever cooking utensils you are using with clean ones, to avoid cross-contamination.
Add the rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that it keeps simmering nicely.
Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook the chicken.
Add the basil leaves, then turn off the heat.
Stir until all of the basil has wilted slightly, then serve at once.
Dry gewurztraminer from Alto Adige (Italy) or Alsace (France) is a great choice with all three cup dishes. It can handle the heat because of the low acidity, and it can handle the strong flavors because it is so aromatic. Good gewurztraminer smells of roses and lychees and is full bodied but dry, even though it seems to smell sweet.
Dirty Rice is soul food. It is rice (can be leftover cooked rice) mixed with meat, vegetables, and a Cajun or Creole spice mix.