Stewed Chicken with Three Cups of Sauce

Stewed Chicken with Three Cups of Sauce, literally “three-cup chicken,” is a popular dish in Jiangxi Province in southern China. It is a specialty known for crispy texture and rich flavor.

Its story dates back to the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when Wen Tianxiang, a Jiangxi native scholar-general, was captured by the invading Yuan armies of Kublai Khan. Wen was offered a Yuan post and ordered to convince the remaining Song forces to surrender. He refused, and was sentenced to a military prison in the capital of Yuan (now Beijing) before his execution. The commoners of the Southern Song Dynasty were anguished to hear of his punishment.

Soon afterwards word spread that Wen had been executed. Hence, one day an old woman came a long way to the prison to pay homage to the hero’s soul on behalf of the Jiangxi locals with a chicken and a bottle of wine. However, Wen Tianxiang was still alive, but due to be executed the following day. A sympathetic prison guard, who was also from Jiangxi, secretly snuck her into the prison. To show their respect, they decided to cook Wen a final dish with their last scraps of food.

They chopped the chicken into small pieces and put it in an earthen pot, adding wine and salt. After simmering the pot over a make-shift stove made of several bricks for over an hour, the meat had a rich aroma and was tender enough to fall off the bone. Having been tortured in prison without yielding, Wen gratefully ate the chicken and drank the wine, prepared to die.

Several years later, the prison guard returned home, and the dish became a hit among Jiangxi locals as a symbol of patriotism. Later chefs improved the recipe with soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine, simmering the chicken until it absorbs all the sauce.

To cook:

1. Wash the chicken wings in fresh water.

2. Throw them into cold water. Heat until boiling and remove.

3. Warm the pan, and pour in some oil, adding sliced ginger, chopped garlic, shredded dry red peppers, and chopped scallions. Stir fry until the flavor comes out.

4. Add chicken wings, and fry until the color is golden on both sides.

5. Pour in 5 tbsp rice wine, 5 tbsp soybean sauce and 5 tbsp sesame oil.

6. Add 2tsp sugar and fry on a high heat. Cover the pan to thicken.

7. Heat an earthen pot on another flame.

8. Four minutes later, remove the cover of the pan to ensure that no broth is left. Stir fry.

9. Turn off the heat and pour the chicken into the pot, quickly adding 3tsp sesame oil. With the chicken sizzling on the brink of burning, add the basil.

10. Cover the pot for another 20 seconds and serve.