San Bei Ji, Three Cup Chicken

LZ, our Chinese roommate, has decided to leave Beijing and return to his home province in search of work. It was nice having him around for the past couple months, it definitely helped my Chinese and I hope we helped his English, although I’m not sure how helpful learning Lonely Island songs and watching Kill Bill really is.

He took us to dinner to thank us for letting him crash in our kitten room. We went just to the restaurant across the street from us, I made a little fuss about people smoking in my face, and we tried a few new dishes. Iron-plate lamb and spicy cauliflower with chilies and bacon were both good, but we ordered this jelly-like rice noodle that I couldn’t really enjoy. Gelatinous, bouncy, a very strange kougan or ‘mouth-feel,’ with an odd, off-putting sweetness in savory sauce. I had the first bite and filled up on flat roubing , fried dough pancakes stuffed with meat filling. Think like flattened, layered dumplings.

I was a bit of a failure dragon. An early event we organized started at 7, I was supposed to be there at 6:45. I woke up, after having vivid Orwellian dreams (probably shouldn’t fall asleep rereading 1984), at precisely 6:29. I flew out of bed, somehow brushed my teeth and grabbed some clothes and found myself presentable in a cab at 6:37, hastily trying to buckle a heel. Managed to get to the hotel at 6:53. Spent the next hour or so as a fly on the wall to some very impressive bigwig visitors. In fact, in a room of thirty, I was by about 2 decades of accomplishments the least significant person, except the waitresses, and they at least had coffee and juice. I feel small. By the time the event was over and I was back at the office, I was half an hour early and most people hadn’t arrived yet. Long, long day.

Luckily, it was a free evening, no teaching afterwards, so I stopped at Jenny Lou’s to stock up my rather bare kitchen. I’ve been eating some richer meals as of late, and not having time to work out, so I’m going for a healthier dinner menu this week. Wednesday: Pan fried tofu, steamed vegetables and rice, with chili-dipping sauce. Not the most exciting, but healthy and quite fast to make.

Thursday: San Bei Ji otherwise known as Three-Cup Chicken. A traditional Taiwanese dish. I don’t ever recall actually eating it in Taiwan, but I’ve had it many times at Taiwanese restaurants at home. Simple ingredients, amazing taste. It’s traditionally served in a clay pot sizzling hot at the table, but I never got around to buying one so I used my wok.

Start out with chicken. Chicken breast or boneless thigh is the easiest, but the bones give it a better flavor.
*One or two chicken legs (or halves, or a whole chicken, depending on how many people are eating) hacked into equal sized bits (just about bite size).
*Equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine. (Since this was just for me, I used about 1/2 cup of each)
*4-5 cloves of garlic, whole
*1/2 thumb of ginger, sliced up
*2 Tbs sugar (rock sugar works best, but whatever sweetener you use)
* About a cup of basil, torn

Sugar, Chicken in"Three Cup" Marinade and Garlic, Ginger, Basil.

Marinate the chicken for a long time in the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. I prepped mine overnight, but give it at least 4 hours to really soak in those flavors.

Heat a little oil in the wok. Throw in garlic, ginger, and if you want, some leek chopped up.
Add in the chicken bits and give it a good sear all around. Slowly pour in the marinating liquid along with the sugar.
Bring this to a boil on medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Let it cook nicely as the liquid reduces, about 80%. Toss in the basil and really mix it in there, and serve immediately, sizzling and delicious, with rice.


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