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2.22.2005

San Bei Ji ("Three Cups Chicken")

Discovered this dish in 2003 on Penang Island, Malaysia, in a little Chinese place called "Nanyang Restaurant" somewhere in the heart of Georgetown (just several doors down from Sun Yat-sun's Penang residence, now a museum). It was so good that we asked for the recipe and to our surprise, the restaurant gave it to us (such friendly people). The next year, we went back again, this time, bringing my wife's parents.

The "three cups" refers to three cups of rice wine. The key ingredient, however, is a generous amount of basil leaves. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any shot of the dish (either at the Nanyang Restaurant, or at home when we made it), so this one with the empty claypots that used to contain the chicken (and two very satisfied customers--my wife and her mom) has to do for now:



I don't have precise measurements for this one as we are so used to making it by instinct by now. In any case, you might have to experiment to find the right amounts of wine and basil that would suit your taste.

Chicken meat, with the bones (preferably legs or thighs), chop into smaller pieces leaving the skin on. Marinate with Chinese rice wine, water and light soy sauce (we tend to put enough to cover the chicken), with dried Chinese mushrooms*, sugar, sesame oil, pepper and lots of chopped fresh basil leaves for about 1 hour. Rule of thumb: the larger the pieces, the longer the marinating time. Cook covered over a very low fire for about half to one hour (varies; better to check regularly after 20 min). Note: this is the trick to cooking chicken so as to achieve tenderness--slow cooking over low heat. The chicken is cooked when you can poke a fork through the meat easily. Sprinkle more basil (either chopped or whole) on top as garnishing.

*Dried Chinese mushrooms, xianggu--either soak in warm to hot water for about 1/2 hour OR, put submerged in water in a bowl, cover and microwave for 2 1/2 min. Run softened mushrooms over cold water to cool them down enough to be handled by hand. Slice into strips (or not) as desired.

We discovered a brand of Japanese rice wine--available in NTUC in Singapore, and very inexpensive too--that makes excellent San Bei Ji, though the usual Chinese cooking rice wine, or a mixture of that plus huadiao wine, or just huadiao wine all seem to do fine. Different kinds/mixtures of rice wine result in slightly different flavors, so it makes for some experimentation.

2 Comments:

Anonymous fayzex said...

The "three cups" actually refer to a cup of chinese cooking wine, a cup of soy sauce, and a cup of sesame oil. The original dish (Taiwanese in origin) does not have any basil, and some newer recipes substitute a cup of sugar for the sesame oil.

Sunday, January 07, 2007 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Special Cook said...

Well said!

Taiwanese San Bei Ji is indeed the 3 impt ingredient of cooking wine,soy sauce and sesame oil! I love them!

The use of basil leaves is to prevent you from getting sick from the greasy-ness of the dish!=)

Sunday, January 25, 2009 10:06:00 AM  

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