Growing up, my mom cooked homemade meals from scratch for us every night.
Both my parents were born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved to America shortly after my sister and I were born. To make sure we stayed in touch with our roots, they raised us in a mini-Taiwan culture: We spoke Mandarin around the house, learned to read and write Traditional Chinese, and ate Taiwanese food year-round.
My mom instilled in me a love of all Asian foods by cooking all her favorites night in and night out for over 18 years. I've come to realize that the food you eat as a child often guides the food you seek out as an adult. It's the very notion of comfort food: food that takes us back to our childhood and invokes memories from our past.
Three Cup Chicken has always been one of my favorites. The recipe is simple, and the 'three cup' title refers to the equal ratio of the three principal ingredients: sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine. For those of you who may be a little nervous about dabbling in Asian cuisine for the first (or second time), don't be - we're starting off easy, and any recipe that uses sesame oil (especially focally), almost guarantees success.
For my everyday version, I tone down the sesame oil slightly to make it a little healthier. I don't think you'll miss it too much - sesame oil itself has a strong flavor, and a little goes a long, delicious way! Regardless, it's a win-win dish whether you decide to go traditional or healthier.
From left to right:
Top: Sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine
Bottom: Green onions, ginger, garlic, basil
1/3 cup sesame oil (I use about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
20 cloves garlic
10 ginger slices
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 large handfuls of fresh basil, loosely chopped
3 green onion stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups rice, cooked
2 cups rice, cooked
1. Marinate chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon sesame oil (to tenderize the meat). Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
2. Heat large wok or dutch oven to high heat and add 3 tablespoons sesame oil. Once hot, add in garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add in chicken thighs and brown well, about 4 minutes.
4. Stir in soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar to cover chicken.
5. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium low. Let simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package instructions (I use a rice cooker, but stovetop works too).
7. After the sauce has thickened in consistency, turn heat up to medium heat and add in basil and scallions. Cook until basil and scallions wilt, about 2 minutes.
For the women: An old Chinese wives' tale says that for every grain of rice you leave in your bowl, it'll be one wart on your face.
For the men: An old Chinese wives' tale says that for every grain of rice you leave in your bowl, it'll be one wart on your future wife's face.