Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Three Cup Chicken

My husband and I have been living at our current apartment for over two years and not once has it occurred to me to start a herb garden. We don't have any land with our apartment but we do have a north facing balcony that gets plenty of sunshine.

While I was at the shops a few weeks ago I had a revelation: packaged parsley cost $2.99 while a potted plant was only $3.49. For 50 cents extra I could have my very own fresh plant and avoid buying a large amount in a package that would just get wasted anyways. What haven't I started a garden sooner???

So I've been slowly collecting various herbs and veggies and growing them on our balcony, and so far we have parsley, mint, thyme, basil, spring onion, rosemary, tomato, cos lettuce, and lavender. I've been having a blast gardening, and yesterday I went down to our local plant shop to pick up a few more pots. As I was leaving, the shop owner asked me if I'd like some free Thai basil, as he had too much and needed to get rid of it. I've never even heard of it before, but of course I took some home and immediately started looking up recipes.

Thai basil is completely different to basil, and it has a sweet licorice flavour to it. It's used quite often in Asian dishes, and after some searching I found one that looked super yummy and would use up a fair amount of my Thai basil.

This three cup chicken recipe is very simple and quick, and most importantly full of flavour. (It's called 'three cup chicken' because of the equal parts of soy, dark soy and wine.) The key to getting the chicken soft and tender is to use baking soda. After you have cut up the chicken thigh into bite size pieces, sprinkle a good amount of baking soda over the surface of the meat and place into the fridge for 15 minutes. This simple step makes the chicken so tender it will melt in your mouth! You can use this trick for pretty much any meat, just be sure to rinse all traces of baking soda off of the meat before cooking, otherwise it won't taste very nice.

Some of the other ingredients, such as the Chinese rice wine or the dark sesame oil may not be available at your local supermarket, but if you live in a city, try going to an Asian grocery store. Most will have all of these ingredients, or they will know where you can find them. Finally, do not substitute the Thai basil for regular Italian basil. It won't work and the taste will be completely off.

Three Cup Chicken
serves 4

500 grams or 1lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
5 slices of fresh peeled ginger
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbs dark sesame oil
1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 1/2 tbs sweet dark soy sauce (also known as Kecap Manis)
1 1/2 tbs Shaoxing wine (also known as Chinese rice wine, or Chinese cooking wine)
1 tbs water
A large handful of Thai basil leaves
1 tbs baking soda (to tenderize chicken)
Cooked rice, to serve

1. Cut up the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and rub generously with baking soda. Place into a bowl, cover, and put into the fridge for 15 minutes.
2. Remove chicken from the fridge and completely rinse off the baking soda with cold water. Pat chicken dry and set aside.
3. Heat a wok or deep frying pan on medium high heat and add the sesame oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
4. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the oil.
5. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, wine, and water and stir well to combine. Cover, and leave to simmer on a lower heat for 5-7 minutes.
6. Add fresh Thai basil leaves and stir for a further minute.
7. Serve immediately on a bed of steamed rice.


  1. This sounds quite tasty. I have never heard of baking soda to tenderize meat. That sounds like something I will have to try.

  2. Holy Moly! I came across this post a few days ago and made it tonight. So good! I added some red bell pepper and onion to the chicken and a little bit of orange juice to the sauce. Thanks for the recipe! The baking soda worked wonderfully, I've never heard of that but I will be using it from now on.

  3. Looks delicious. Would love for you to share this with us over at

  4. This is so delicious!! Thanks for sharing! But, how do you make the chicken to have such a nice colour? Mine look too pale, even with soy sauce? xx