Three Teacup Chicken

Happy Chinese New Year! Please welcome Garrett McCord as he shares a favorite Chinese chicken dish with us, Three Teacup Chicken. ~Elise

2011 is the Year of the Rabbit (兔) which is a welcome thing after the previous wild and somewhat ferocious Year of the Tiger (虎). The rabbit is probably the most delicate animal of the Chinese zodiac and those born under rabbit years (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011) are reserved, good natured, compassionate, and artistic, though perhaps a bit absentminded and superficial. The Rabbit, being a such a good friend, also likes to prepare food for people. This is especially true come Chinese New Year.

This recipe is a simple braised chicken dish called Three Teacup Chicken. The name comes from the basic preparation in which a teacup is traditionally used to measure the three key ingredients of the braising liquid: sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. This braising liquid and a hearty amount of garlic, ginger, and scallion creates a dish that is sweet, salty, sour, and savory (combining many tastes in one dish is key to successful Chinese cooking). If you want, you can add Sichuan peppercorns and star anise to develop more depth of flavor and a pleasant, tingly heat.

Regardless if you are a rabbit, tiger, snake or whatever this three teacup chicken is an authentic and tasteful way to celebrate the New Year.

Three Teacup Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce for gluten-free version)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 8 1/4-inch-thick slices of peeled ginger
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns or 1 diced red chili pepper(optional)
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast or thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 star anise or pinch of anise seed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water

Method

1 Make the braising liquid: In a bowl combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and Shaoxing wine together and mix well. Set aside.

2 Heat a wok or large saute pan on high heat until a drop of water will evaporate within 1-2 seconds. Place the oil in the wok and swirl. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and Sichuan peppercorns/chili pepper if using and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3 Add the chicken and stir-fry until no pink on the surface remains (you just want to sear the outside nicely).

4 Add the braising liquid and star anise or anise seed if using and cook for 1 minute ensuring that the chicken is well coated in the braising liquid. Add the water and cover and cook for 4 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and no pink remains. Serve immediately over rice with hearty amounts of the broth. Garnish with a little extra chopped scallion.

Links:

Vietnamese Three Cups Chicken - Rasa Malaysia
Sichuan Peppercorns - Penzey's Spices
Star Anise - Penzey's Spices
Chinese Zodiac - Wikipedia

21 Comments

  1. GM

    Besides rice, any suggested side dishes?
    Thanks, this will be dinner tonight!

    Noodles or Chinese long beans are a symbol of longevity for the new year! Chinese almond cookies (actually, a Chinese-American treat) are equally perfect. I would browse the Chinese section of this site for some ideas. Jaden at Steamy Kitchen also has a great round-up of recipes for the New Year. ~Garrett

  2. Patty

    Garrett,
    This sounds very tasty. Do you think dry vermouth might work as a substitute for the wine/sherry?

    Some people would say yes, some would say no. I am in the no group because I’m a purist about vermouth. Cognac or brandy would be fine. Maybe white wine? I guess vermouth could be used as well but I haven’t tried it so I can’t say what the ending result would be. Give it a shot and let us know how it works. =) ~Garrett

  3. Anna

    I’m definitely going to try this with chicken thighs, but I’ll use wheat-free tamari (I like Ohsawa brand traditionally brewed raw tamari) to make it gluten-free.

    I can’t wait to read if anyone makes this with rabbit instead of chicken!

  4. rhonda taylor

    We were originally planning on having fettuccine with creamy tomato italian sausage sauce from this site for dinner when my 13 year old informed me that today was Chinese New Year. I had already began making french bread, but then we saw this recipe and my son volunteered to make it for dinner. I said, “Go for it.”

    It turned out great (we are in the Netherlands, so dinner time has already come and gone). It was very delicious; we used white wine in place of the sherry and everyone loved it. We served it with sticky sushi rice, shrimp sauce, and, because of the insistence of an eight year old daughter, we had french bread right along side it :). Thanks, Garrett, for the great recipe.

  5. carrie ann

    Saw this recipe earlier today and made it for dinner tonight (substituting Mirin for the wine) over noodles. It was very good. I’ll definitely make it again. We had Mochi for dessert too for the perfect finish.

  6. Debby

    I made this tonight and used 1/2 t of vanilla extract in place of the shaoxing wine which worked well. The next time I make this I think I’ll add a vegetable and perhaps some cashews for added dimension.

    I will be honest, Debby, vanilla extract isn’t really a practical substitution. However, I am glad that it worked out for you. =) ~Garrett

  7. Jasmin

    Hello,
    This is my first time visiting this website and glad to find this receipe. I’ll definitely have a go!

    Please can you advise how much ml does it equal for 1/4 cup?

    Also, 1 1/4 T shaoxing wing does it mean a Tablespoon?

    T = Tablespoon. 1 US cup = 236.588237 ml. ~Garrett

  8. Jhannelle

    I absolutely love your website! I’m not an avid cook and a general disaster in the kitchen (I haven’t mastered cooking rice and absolutely refuse to get a rice cooker!), but I can’t wait to try your recipes! This has become EASILY my favorite site to visit daily to get inspired. Thank you so much, Elise!

  9. Vicky

    I’m pretty sure this dish is Taiwanese and also calls for a healthy dose of basil.

    You will notice in the links at the bottom of the recipe a link to the Vietnamese version. This recipe is the Chinese version. There are, in fact, more than one. ~Garrett

  10. Espahan

    This recipe comes just in time. I was wondering what to do with my chicken breast. I wanted something Asian so this will work out fine with steamed rice and a vegie side dish of pan fried/steamed Gai Lan, (Chinese Broccoli).

  11. Renee

    Sounds different! I doubt that I will be able to find that kind of wine; thanks for mentioning sherry. Making Chinese food in my wok makes me feel so “authentic”! :}

  12. jonathan

    Wow! I never knew I was born under the Year of the Rabbit. This may help explain my preoccupation with classic Bugs Bunny episodes. This dish also looks delicious (not to mention, e a s y). Thanks for sharing, Garrett.

  13. Kathleen

    Made this for supper tonight (exactly as recipe instructs.) I’ve had star anise for a long time and didn’t know how to use it. It was perfect-o. Unlike every other stir fry recipe, this had it’s own distinctive flavor. It was very easy and fast. Thanks.

  14. Ellie

    Sorry, I’ve got to back Vicky up here. I think the recipe is great and I’m all for adaptations, so this is only a note about Garret’s feedback: the “Vietnamese” link you provided at the bottom is actually a Taiwanese/Chinese recipe. There aren’t many variations. Three Cup Chicken is a classic Taiwanese dish and basil one of its most distinct ingredients. It even says so in the entry.

    Sorry to you both, but I stand that multiple cooks will have multiple interpretations of a dish. I have encountered this dish only without basil and that was when it was made by the Chinese family I was eating with. Basil is not a mandatory ingredient. Think of it the same way that some people insist meatloaf be made with ketchup and others are positive that it must be made without. ~Garrett

  15. GM

    We enjoyed this dish, although I thought it was a little too sweet- then I looked back at the recipe and realized I had made 4 teacup chicken- an extra one for the wine. Oops…good thing no minors joined us for dinner. We served with noodles and green beans.

  16. Melissa

    Thank you x1000! I have been Craving this food ever since my neighbor, who was from Taiwan, moved away 10 years ago. I just made it and it turned out great!
    My husband is late coming home from work and there might not be any left!

  17. Kris

    I cooked this recipe the other night and it was a big hit! I also took the leftovers to work for lunch. After heating it up in the lounge area, a number of coworkers – lured in by the fantstic smell of the broth – came over to ask for the recipe! Thanks for sharing this with us! :-)

  18. IMHO

    Forget about using a wok. The typical stove doesn’t generate enough heat and, anyway, the wok just sits on top of the burner and the sides don’t get hot.

    Use a cast iron skillet and work in stages.

    Cook the chicken first and separately…give it a dusting of freshly ground black pepper and sear it over a high heat. Remove the chicken then sautee the garlic and ginger. Add liquid, then re-introduce the chicken and heat through. Then add scallions, keeping them bright and fresh.

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