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


  • 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


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.

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

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Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • 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

  • Patty

    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

  • The Duo Dishes

    This might work well as a broth for tofu too. Love this! Sweet with a little spice.

  • 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!

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