San-Bei Chicken 三杯雞

A Taiwanese classic. Savory, flavorful but easy to make. A great main dish to serve with rice! The best part about this recipe is the method can be used for not only chicken but tofu, mushrooms, seafood and if you’re daring, frogs!

San-bei (三杯), literally means 3 cups in Mandarin. One cup of soy sauce, one cup of sesame oil, one cup of rice wine, this is the base of the sauce.


Traditionally black sesame oil is used for it’s distinct flavor. Black sesame oil is made with roasted black sesame seeds, the flavor is stronger than the common sesame oil that’s made with white sesame seeds. Taiwanese and Chinese medical theory says that every food has its own characteristic of warm, cool or neutral and it is used to balance our body. Black sesame oil falls into the “warm” category, it is great for winter, when your body is cold but not necessarily good when you already feel hot, for example fever, it might make symptoms worse. The black sesame oil and ginger slices makes san-bei chicken a great dish for autumn to prep for the coming winter, but we really love it and enjoy it anytime of the year.

In Taiwan, we often use rice wine when we cook, but it is not always easy to find here in USA, I tried replacing it with 1C rice wine= 1/2C Vodka+1/2C Water and it works fine. They are similar, just that vodka has a higher alcohol content and cooking rice wine in Taiwan is actually slightly salty, but the dish is salty enough I don’t find it necessary to add extra salt to it. I also found that there was the Japanese “Mirin” labeled as “cooking rice wine” at the super market, that is actually something very different. It is a sweetened, slightly sour condiment with low alcohol content. Taiwanese/Chinese rice wine isn’t sweet at all.


There’s not really a particular part of chicken that you have to use, but this recipe is usually made with skin still attached. Chicken thighs works really well but I’ve also done it with chicken wings only.


San-Bei Chicken

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print



  • 1/4C Black sesame oil (or just sesame oil)
  • 15 Thinly sliced Ginger
  • 15 Cloves of Garlic, skinned
  • 1T Sugar
  • 1 Chili
  • 1 Star anise (optional)
  • 2 Chicken thighs, chopped into pieces
  • 1/4C Soy sauce
  • 1/4C Cooking rice wine
  • 1 Bunch of Basil



  1. Heat up
    • 1/4C Black sesame oil
  2. Stir fry on low heat until ginger is paper thin/crispy
    • 15pcs Thinly sliced Ginger
    • 15 Cloves of Garlic, skinned
  3. Stir in
    • 1T Sugar
    • 1 Chili
    • 1 Star anise
  4. On medium heat, add and fry until slightly colored
    • 2 Chicken thighs, chopped into pieces
  5. Stir in
    • 1/4C Soy sauce
    • 1/4C Rice wine
  6. Cook and stir until the sauce is reduced and chicken is colored
  7. Turn the heat off and add
    • 1 Bunch of basil

Recipe Notes:

  • Add more rice wine if you’d like more sauce for this dish
  • Frying the ginger until it’s dry extract all the flavor of the ginger into the oil
  • The sugar helps give the chicken a glistening caramel color
  • You can also pre-fry the chicken to get rid of excess oil from the skin then follow the same steps



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