Tasting Taiwan & a Three Cup Chicken recipe

Chopsticks, Taiwan

I’ve just returned from a week of gluttonous gallivanting around beautiful Taiwan. I know, I know, poor me. I’m hardly expecting sympathy cards or flowers.

I also should point out at this juncture that this particular trip was a bigger deal to me than most and I honestly had doubts that I could handle it. You see, it’s the very first I have travelled sans offspring since they were born. To be honest, it’s the first time that this besotted mama has spent more than 16 hours away from either of her hard-to-make progeny. Even that was just the once, a little over two years ago, and I was giving birth to Sugarpuff at the time, so I had a pretty good excuse.

For several weeks before departure, my ever so slightly melodramatic mind was spinning with imagined scenarios that would rival the very worst daytime soap.

Would my kids miss me? Would they be OK? What if something happened to them while I was away? Would I die of mother guilt? What if something happened to me? Would Mr Eats World remarry an evil harridan or worse, a conservative pop music lover who would raise my precious babies without a love of French cheese, punk music and leopard print? Would I even be able to breathe without them in my immediate proximity? The short answer? Yes. Yes. It didn’t. I didn’t. It didn’t. He didn’t. I could.

To elucidate, I can happily report that they did indeed miss me and remained unscathed by the experience; my husband didn’t remarry in my week long absence; the kids still love French cheese; Mr Eats World taught them to sing a Rancid song while I was gone (which shows questionable parental judgement but I secretly think is kinda ok); and my daughter turned up at the airport clad in camo skinny jeans and a leopard print coat (again, a questionable choice but cute in a vision impaired hipster sort of way). And, though I did feel a little like I was missing a limb the entire time I was away and thought about my little lovelies pretty much every minute of every day, I not only survived but actually had loads of fun! In fact, I think the break from bottom wiping and tantrums and a week of conversation unfiltered of swear words, and that didn’t centre around Ninja Turtles and Peppa Pig, may have just made me a better, and more relaxed, parent.

My week in beautiful Taiwan certainly made more of a mother of me. About 15 kgs more! From day one and its lunch time offering of chicken noodle soup and pig’s intestines in the squeaky clean streets of Taipei (I can hear the collective “ewwww” from here but don’t diss it until you’ve tried it, it’s really not too bad) to the first of many, many remarkable dinner banquets, I realised fairly quickly I was going to be eating my own body weight daily!

Taipei Street food

And I did. That weight expanding exponentially. One week of memorable but mammoth meals has left me not only a card-carrying member of the Taiwanese Cuisine Fan Club but about six inches wider! Indeed, my fab fellow journalists and I were fed so much, so often, during our week of extreme gluttony that it crossed my mind that we may have stumbled into some macabre organ harvesting operation and our livers were being fattened up to be sold as human fois gras on the black market. Luckily, being typical journos we all drank so much during the gorging that our pickled livers were of little use to anyone and we returned home with all necessary organs in place, if slightly worse for wear.

The Howard Plaza in downtown Taipei was the venue for our first dinner feast, and a fabulous introduction to the kind of authentic cuisine that the Taiwanese make at home it was. We started with plump juicy oysters sautéed in black soy bean, sweet potato congee, tender fried fillet of pork with soy sauce, fried preserved turnip omelettes and the most delicious crispy mushrooms I’ve ever tasted.

braised and fried mushrooms

Sated, we were all ready to head home but the chef had other ideas and the food just kept coming, platter after heaving platter of it. Slippery and succulent sauteed loofah (yes, you read that right, loofah, in its fresh pre-cellulite buffing form).

Stir fried loofahStir fried wild vegetables, asparagus with lily root and three cup chicken came next. Then deep fried fish in the most amazing sweet and sour sauce which (besides not being fluorescent orange) was as blissfully far away from tasting like the stuff we get back home as you could imagine.

Three cup chicken

And that was before they brought out desserts. Plural!

It was a night of many highlights… not least of which was a fairly surreal ukulele performance of “The Pub With No Beer” to an audience that included a posse of extremely polite locals, a hotelier who’d done his training at the Benny Hill school of comedy, an Austrian envoy (a man afflicted with an odd nervous tick when anyone mentioned “Edelweiss”) and an inebriated emissary from Lyon.

And which I’m sure was directed by Terry Gilliam. On a bender.

For me, Three Cup Chicken was the stand out dish on the first night of our glutinous pilgrimage. Not because it was better than the others (which were all rave worthy) but because this sticky, sweet, salty and oh-so-tasty comfort dish is one of the signature dishes of Taiwan, and I knew at first bite that I would be taking it home to my family.

I chatted up the folk in the know and with only the slightest cajoling managed to procure an approximation of the recipe.

Did I mention that the Taiwanese are just about the nicest people on the planet?

On my return (after picking myself up off the floor of Sydney Airport Arrivals, having been attacked and knocked to the floor by two small lunatics who were as excited to see their mama as she was them) and armed only with a vague hand-me-down recipe and the remnants of my alcohol damaged memory, I gathered the ingredients and whipped up my interpretation of Three Cup Chicken, with a child attached to each leg.

Taiwanese Three cup chicken - ingredients

It was such a hit, I have made it twice more since. Pretty impressive given I have only been back five nights.

On this occasion I may not have been able to take my tiny travellers to Taiwan but I have brought Taiwan home to them. This dish is just the start…

Homestyle Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken


Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken
(serves 4)


750 grams free-range chicken thigh fillets (cut into bite-size chunks)
1 tablespoon cornflour
15-20 whole garlic cloves (peeled)
12 ginger slices
80 ml sesame oil (plus 2 tbsp for frying)
80 ml soy sauce
80 ml Chinese rice wine
2 tbsp sugar
2 large handfuls of fresh Thai Basil (Thai Basil holds flavour and colour better than its European counterpart)
4 spring onions, cut into 5 cm lengths


  • Coat chicken with 1 tbsp of sesame oil and 1 tbsp cornflour and put aside for twenty minutes.
  • Heat wok until sizzling and add 2 tbsp sesame oil. Toss in whole garlic cloves and ginger slices and fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add chicken and fry for three minutes, until lightly browned.
  • Add soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and sugar and stir.
  • Bring mixture to boil then lower heat and allow chicken to simmer for 25 minutes. The sauce will thicken during cooking.
  • Increase heat, add basil and spring onions and cook for another two minutes.
  • Serve with rice.

Disclosure: While I did travel to Taiwan courtesy of Taiwan Tourism and China Airlines (whose brand new Airbus 330-300 that flies direct from Sydney to Taipei is awesome BTW) it was for my day job and not in any way connected to this blog. I am under no obligation to share my experiences here but I am because I adored Taiwan, its food and its people and I want to share its sights, smells and tastes with my kids. You guys just get to come along for the very tasty ride.

33 Comments on Tasting Taiwan & a Three Cup Chicken recipe

  1. Shelley
    June 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm (7 years ago)

    15-20 cloves of garlic! Woah!!

      June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm (7 years ago)

      Not as scary as it sounds Shelley. Because the cloves are left whole they sweeten as they are cooked and don’t give off too strong a flavour. I wouldn’t do that to you 🙂

  2. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad)
    June 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm (7 years ago)

    Oh that recipe sure looks so yummy, and sounds so easy to make – I am going to be giving it a go.
    Taiwan sure sounds like a great place to travel to, even if it was for work!! Good that you were able to bring it back for the family through a recipe 🙂

      June 4, 2013 at 8:25 pm (7 years ago)

      This recipe is a cinch and so tasty! Taiwan is really surprising. stunning scenery, cool cities, amazing food and gorgeous people. I loved it.

  3. Christine (Food Wine Travel)
    June 6, 2013 at 1:07 am (7 years ago)

    Great post Aleney. So glad I was along for the ride with you. How impressive that you’ve already recreated that dish a couple of times. I’m in awe of you!

      June 6, 2013 at 9:35 am (7 years ago)

      Thanks Christine. I’m glad we got to finally meet after all these years especially as it seems we’re kindred spirits. I hope we get to go ‘trippin together again. And don’t forget next time you’re in Sydney we have a date with some chocolate.

  4. Jill
    June 6, 2013 at 10:37 am (7 years ago)

    Sounds like you had a fab week! I’m sure home was just fine but as a mum I share your pain lol

  5. Cooker and a Looker
    June 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm (7 years ago)

    This looks divine Boyeatsworld! I’m glad the tribe survived happily without you. I was living your trip vicariously through instagram! This chicken looks delicious – I’m going to try to have a crack at it this week. I didn’t know you could fry sesame oil – I thought it burnt too easily or something. I’m trying to make okonomiyaki for the first time tonight – wish me luck! 🙂

      June 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks lovely! I thought all that sesame oil would a)make it greasy and b)be too strong but it works and the sauce is thick and delicious. Can’t wait to hear about your Okonomiyaki adventure! 🙂

  6. Author Bek Mugridge (@bekmugridge)
    June 8, 2013 at 10:34 am (7 years ago)

    YUM! What a delicious post and adventure.
    I haven’t been away from my two, it must feel amazing and weird all the same time 🙂

      June 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm (7 years ago)

      It’s a strange feeling but almost worth it just for the greeting at the airport 🙂

  7. Talia
    June 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm (7 years ago)

    Yum, yum, yum!! I want to make this RIGHT NOW! Haha.

    Hopefully I can find something similar when we’re in Japan…. tomorrow!

      June 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm (7 years ago)

      Ooh how exciting. Have an amazing time 🙂

  8. Leanne Winter
    June 9, 2013 at 7:54 pm (7 years ago)

    Am definitely trying the this recipe – sounds great and I think even the boys will love it – will let you know. Thanks, Leanne.

      June 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm (7 years ago)

      Mine loved it! Let me know what they think 🙂

  9. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    June 9, 2013 at 9:39 pm (7 years ago)

    I’ve always wanted to go to Taiwan-although 10 days ago I was in China and had some similar dishes. I love three cup chicken 🙂

      June 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm (7 years ago)

      If you loved China you’ll adore Taiwan. Really lovely people and great vibe with AMAZING food. 🙂

  10. modmomelleroy
    June 11, 2013 at 10:31 am (7 years ago)


  11. Jessica
    June 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm (7 years ago)

    Nice! You’re the first person I know who didn’t say eww to pork intestines! It really is good, just gotta try it like you said! Thanks for sharing with us @ My Favorite Posts SHOW OFF Weekend Blog Party 🙂

    The Wondering Brain

      June 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm (7 years ago)

      I’ll try anything once! Pork intestine may even be good enough for me to go back for seconds 🙂

  12. Kim
    June 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm (7 years ago)

    WOW Aleney – You ate a loofah… wonder if that works on cellulite from the inside? I’m going to try it. I’m garlic shy – not because I don’t like it, but because it doesn’t like me, but I’m tofu-MAD. Looking forward to delving into your next post. Leaving the littles can be great though it’s terrifying. I did it once, for Italy. I was SO ZEN when I came back, for about three weeks. BTW – what’s your day job? I’m intrigued.

      June 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm (7 years ago)

      Hey Kim – Loofah, in it’s non exfoliating state, is quite squishy and soft so probably not that internally cleansing. 😉 My part-time day job is as the editor of a family travel mag. Sounds glam but in reality it means I edit OTHER people’s glamorous holiday tales while I sit at my desk. Occasionally I do get offered fabulous famils to explore and write about some far flung and exotic destination and then I get to turn it down (sobbing) because I have two small people who require parenting and aren’t included in the invite. This one to Taiwan was the first I said yes to and while I did suffer enormous guilt for the first few days the break did us all the world of good. May say “yes” more often now we’ve survived the first one. 🙂

  13. Leanne Winter
    June 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Aleney, cooked this for dinner last night, it was fantastic. So easy and the whole family loved it. Hubby said he could eat it every night. Thank you!

      June 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm (7 years ago)

      Yay! So glad to hear. We had it last night too and my hubby said the same thing. Must be man food 😉

  14. Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel
    June 27, 2013 at 8:11 am (7 years ago)

    My mouth is watering… this looks so good and the recipe sounds fine except for the Chinese wine, will have to check the aisles or find a Chinese shop. Trip sounds great, and learning experience for all.

      June 29, 2013 at 8:37 am (7 years ago)

      It has been a great learning experience and so much fun to share with the kids, Seana.

  15. Miss Food Fairy
    June 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm (6 years ago)

    This recipe sounds delicious and Taiwan sounds pretty awesome too – love Asia! Thanks for sharing on FFF via Bake Play Smile, it’s great to meet you

  16. Alicia
    June 7, 2014 at 8:09 am (6 years ago)

    I cannot wait to try this. Thank you for bringing it back from your great Taiwan adventure. I am seriously jealous, as much as I would have the same feelings about getting away for a holiday sans kids, I’d love a holiday like this.

      June 7, 2014 at 8:28 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks Alicia. It’s seriously is easy and so delicious. My kids beg for it now! They even eat the whole caramelised garlic pieces. 🙂

  17. House in Tillford
    June 9, 2014 at 10:56 am (6 years ago)

    Looks a delicious trip! And that dish you made looks so tasty and saucy!

  18. Lauren @ Create Bake Make
    June 9, 2014 at 7:26 pm (6 years ago)

    I bought the ingredients to make this today, hoping it all works out for dinner tomorrow night! Thank you for linking up with us for Fabulous Foodie Fridays 🙂

      June 9, 2014 at 9:08 pm (6 years ago)

      Hope you enjoy the dish as much my family does!


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