Three-cup chicken is probably the most popular dish in Taiwan and every cook has their own recipe. The recipe takes its name from the equal ratio of sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce used in the dish, rather than the literal measurements. 






Skill level

Average: 3.6 (99 votes)

While checking out the food markets, I met a local called Ivy Chen, who generously shared her family recipe with me. It was so delicious that I’ve made it a couple of times since returning home. The idea is that the liquid is completely reduced down until it becomes nice and sticky. Ainsley Harriott, Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food


  • 600 g chicken drumsticks
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) black sesame oil (see note)
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) rice wine
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, chopped
  • small handful Asian basil leaves (see note)
  • steamed rice, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


1. Using a cleaver or a large, heavy knife, chop the chicken into large bite-sized pieces.

2. Heat the sesame oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned all over. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until lightly golden. Add the rice wine and cook until nearly evaporated, then add the soy sauce, sugar, pepper and 80 ml (⅓ cup) water.

3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the chilli and basil and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute, the serve immediately with steamed rice.  



• Black sesame oil is stronger in flavour and fragrance than the paler, regular sesame oil, so it is perfect for dishes such as this where you really want to emphasise the lovely, nutty sesame flavour. Because the oil is prone to becoming rancid more quickly than others, it is best purchased in small bottles and stored in the refrigerator.

• If you have difficulty getting hold of Asian basil (otherwise known as holy basil), substitute with regular basil and add 1 star anise to the simmering chicken.


Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food starts Thursday 6 August 2015 at 8.30pm on SBS and finishes 1 October 2015. Visit the Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food program page to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes and read our interview with Ainsley.