San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

If you are looking for a crowd pleaser then look no further as I can guarantee you that plates will be licked clean if you serve up this dish. As well as cooking a pot for grown-ups, I made up a batch for Big A and Little Z (minus the dried chillies) and they absolutely adored it.

The dish originates from the Southern Chinese province of Jiangxi and is a speciality of Ningdu. In addition it has also become a popular dish in Taiwan. I can also guarantee it will become a firm favourite in your repertoire once you’ve tried cooking it once.

San Bei Ji literally translates as three cup chicken – the three cups being sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce. This recipe uses the trio but less liberally and the result is outstanding and quite frankly addictive.

The last part of the cooking is done in a claypot, but should you not have one to hand (or a heatproof casserole dish) simply continue cooking the final part in the pot you have been using all along. Whilst not completely authentic it will still taste equally divine.

San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

Adapted from Leemi Tan’s book Lemongrass and Ginger

Serves 4 (with no leftovers!)

1.2kg boneless chicken thighs, diced into bite sized pieces

1 tsp sunflower oil

3 cm of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

8 garlic cloves, whole and slightly crushed *

5 spring onions, cut into 5 cm pieces and thinly sliced lengthways

4 small dried chillies, chopped and seeds discarded (if you prefer it less chilli)

250ml Shaoxing rice wine

6 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar (whatever you have to hand)

4 tbsp sesame oil

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves

1 handful of thai basil leaves

1. Poach the chicken in boiling water for one minute to seal and then drain and keep to one side.

2. In a large pan add the sunflower oil and when it is hot add the ginger and stir fry for one minute before adding the garlic and continuing to cook for a further minute.

* to slightly crush garlic place a knife flat over the top and press down hard, allowing it to split.

3. Add the dried chillies and spring onions and continue to fry for another minute, stirring frequently. Add the chicken, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and cover the pan and cook until the liquid has dissolved – this will take between 40-50 minutes; continue to stir occasionally.

4. Once the liquid has almost dissolved heat up a claypot/heatproof casserole dish either in an oven or if you are able to directly on the hob. Once the liquid has finally dissolved add the sesame oil and when it begins to bubble add the chicken pieces and fresh thai basil and coriander leaves and stir together for a few seconds.

5. Serve immediately so that it is sizzling hot.

Serve with boiled rice and  as a side I often eat it with steamed pak choi and some edamame beans – not particularly authentic but I find it works well.


Leemei Tan’s Sweet and Sour Pork Belly

Not so long ago I purchased Leemei Tan’s cookbook ‘Lemongrass and Ginger’, mainly because her Asian recipes were calling out to me to be tried and devoured. It’s her very first cookbook and her recipes and stunning photographs – which she took herself  I might add, are hugely appealing.

She has split her recipes into regional geographies with chapters including: ‘Cambodia & Vietnam’, ‘India and Sri Lanka’, ‘Thailand’, ‘Malaysia & Singapore’, ‘Philippines & Indonesia’, ‘China’ and ‘Japan & Korea’. Not all recipes are accompanied by a photograph but the large majority are.

I decided to start by trying her ‘Sweet and Spicy Pork Belly’. It seemed straightforward and I had some pork belly in the freezer which needed using. I did end up using a little more pork belly than Leemei but that was mainly due to the five large bones that I decided to use instead of discard. Without the bones and the added meat on them, we would have had around the same amount of meat. Whilst the dish tasted delicious with pork belly I am going to prepare it again soon with a slightly leaner cut, which is less fatty.

As I was feeding three adults, and the recipe is for 4-6 people, coupled by the fact I had included a little more meat than Leemei, I managed to have a sufficient amount leftovers for the following day, which I prepared in a slightly different way so as to create a new version of the dish.

Both dishes I prepared with boiled long grain rice.

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly

from Leemei Tan’s book ‘Lemongrass and Ginger’

1.3kg pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces (I added the 5 large bones), but if you are not doing this only add 800g of pork belly)

1 tbsp sunflower oul

1 star anise

5cm/2in cinnamon stick

2 dried chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 spring onions, cut into 6cm/2 and a half inch lengths

2cm/3/4in piece of root ginger, peeled and sliced

1. Cut the pork into bite sized portions and add to a saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes so as to seal the meat. Drain and place to one side.

2. Heat the oil gently in a saucepan and add the star anise, cinnamon and dried red chillies and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

3. Add the garlic and stir fry for another minute before adding the Sichuan peppercorns and stir frying them for a further minute.

4. Add the pork belly and mix well before adding the honey and the light and dark soy sauces, rice wine, spring onions and ginger. Let the ingredients cook together for 5 minutes, before adding 150ml of water. Bring to the boil and cook for  a few seconds.

5. Reduce the heat and cover for 45 minutes when you find the liquid has reduced and thickened and the meat is tender.

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The following day I added a few more ingredients to the leftovers to create this:

Leftover Sweet and Sour Pork Belly with Fresh Spinach, Yellow Courgettes and Soya Beans

2 tbsp ground nut oil

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 fresh green chilli, sliced

2cm fresh ginger, finely grated

2 yellow courgettes

225g fresh spinach (basically 2 large handfuls)

150g frozen soy beans

2 tbsp light soya sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

100ml water

Leftover pork belly

1. Heat the oil gently in a pan and add the garlic and chilli. Stir and cook for 20 seconds before adding the ginger and yellow courgettes.

2. Continue to stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes and then add both soy sauces.

3. Add the frozen soya beans along with the water and cover for a few minutes. Once the soya beans have been simmering for a few minutes add the fresh spinach and pork belly and simmer for a further few minutes until the spinach has wilted, the soya beans have cooked and the pork belly is piping hot. Serve immediately with boiled rice.