Sanbeiji, which literally means "Three-Cup Chicken", is a popular dish in Taiwan which has its roots in Jiangxi province in southern China. One version has it that sanbeiji was first cooked by a prison guard for national hero, Wen Tianxiang before his execution during the Song dynasty at the hands of the invading armies of Kublai Khan. The warden made a dish with the scant ingredients he had at hand, and a classic dish was born.
The dish is a deceptively simple creation using "three cups" of ingredients: a cup of rice wine, a cup of sesame oil and a cup of soy sauce. Every chef has his own unique adjustments to the recipe mix and Chef Dong at Lugang Café will not be drawn on the details of his particular recipe. "It’s a secret," he laughs merrily.
However, Chef Dong does share that the chicken is cooked with a medley of ginger, garlic, scallions and peppers before the rice wine and soy sauce are added to the wok to create the delicious sauce for which Three-Cup Chicken is justifiably famous. Chilies add spiciness, while basil is the final garnish to give the dish its distinctive taste.