It took me too long to realize. What was missing in my life was a man. Specifically, a poultry butcher.
Yes, I learned to carve a whole chicken in culinary school, but bad student that I was, found it too much of a chore. After graduation I rarely brought home whole chickens to dissect. Instead, at the supermarket, I made a beeline for neatly packaged drumsticks and wings.
In China’s wet markets, however, you can select your chicken from the poultry guys, who will pluck, carve, and bag your bird in a matter of minutes. The more expensive chickens at the wet markets are free-range, ol’ skool-style, raised by local farmers who let them run around their neighborhoods and feed them grain or table scraps (consider the alternative.) The cheaper birds at the wet markets, not to mention any packaged chicken you’ll find at supermarkets, are factory-farmed. These are what Chinese people mean when they refer to “chicken that has no chicken taste.”
So, a poultry butcher is a lazy cook’s best friend. Especially when it comes to making stupidly easy but insanely addictive dishes like Three Cup Chicken.
A Taiwanese dish, three cup chicken consists of bite-sized chicken (bone-in) braised with equal parts soy sauce, white rice wine, and sesame oil. The combination, plus some sugar and a potent amount of garlic and ginger, eliminates the need for any spices. An essential ingredient to add at the end is Thai or oriental basil, with adds a mild clove-like flavor to the dish.
And it takes only 15 minutes from start to end.
Three Cup Chicken
- 1/2 cup sesame oil, divided in half
- 1 whole 2 to 2 1/2 pound chicken, chopped to bite-sized pieces
- 10 cloves garlic, chopped
- 10 pieces thinly sliced ginger
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 1/2 cup white rice wine
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 cups fresh Thai or oriental basil
- Heat 1/4 cup of the sesame oil in a large wok or clay pot. Stir-fry the chicken pieces until lightly brown and crisp on the outside, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for another minute.
- Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, stir in the white sugar. Stir in the Thai basil and simmer another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with rice.