With no marinades and a short list of seasonings, the chicken (drumsticks) can still be deftly flavored and succulent braised . The stories behind this traditional Chinese recipe (三杯雞) shall speak for me how simple this dish can be made.

Some say it was a dish cooked by a sympathetic prison warden for a respectful Chinese official before his execution. Some say it was a lady, believing the official was dead, wanted to pay her last worship to him. Having found that the official was still alive, she bribed the wardens and cooked him this dish in an earthenware pot. Regardless which was true, it meant that the original dish was cooked with very limited resources.

To prepare a sauce for that dish, the cups, supposedly for containing wine for the worship (or for the last dinner), were then used as the handy tools to measure out soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine . ‘Three-cup’ in this recipe thus is not the standard measuring cups but means an equal amount of the three key ingredients in the sauce.

Choices of sesame oil
Either classic sesame oil (from white sesame seeds) or black sesame oil will do. Do read the label to look for a pure version (100% sesame oil) as some bottles may contain soya bean oil or vegetable oil. The black version would infuse a strong aroma while the classic, a rather mild nutty flavor.

Taiwanese style
For variation, you may replace the spring onions by basil leaves, a simple tweak that will transform the traditional Chinese style to Taiwanese style.

Chinese Three-Cup Chicken

Thoroughly thaw chicken drumsticks if they are frozen. Wash and pat dry. Chop them into chunks. I made a deep-to-the-bone slit lengthwise and slice each drumstick flat before choppingit into chunks. It will be fine if some are attached with the bone, while some are not.

Over low to medium flame, heat sesame oil in pot. Briefly sauté ginger slices and garlic until lightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes

Drop in spring onions, followed by chicken pieces, then keep stir-frying for about a minute, or until the meat no longer looks pale. Add wine, soy sauce and rock sugar; stir-well and bring to a simmer.

Switch to low flame, cover, cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken meat are tender. You may want to check once or twice in between to flip and turn the chicken pieces, making sure there is no sticking and the sauce does not get dried. If the sauce gets too thick, add 1-2 spoons of water.

Update 2012.4.1: The resulting sauce should be thick enough that it clings well to chunks of the meat. In case your sauce is rather runny, simmer the chicken a bit longer. Or, if you actually like a thinner sauce, you may need to add a pinch of salt to supplement the taste of diluted dark soy sauce.

Serve hot.

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