a balanced plate with room for dessert

Three Cup Tofu

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Once in a while I dream of “san bei ji”, or three cup chicken. It’s a Taiwanese dish I associate strongly with my mom. She gave me her recipe for three cup chicken and I’ve tried to recreate it. Even though I follow her directions exactly, it never tastes right. It’s mystifying – there are so few ingredients. Literally no room for error. I’m not sure what her secret is, but I’ve given up.

Luckily, I can create a little magic of my own. Specifically in the form of three cup tofu. It follows her basic three cup chicken recipe, but with a few adjustments. And folks, this is good. Even if you’re not a tofu fan, you have got to give this a try. I fell in love with the texture of the tofu in this dish – it’s silky, but not mushy. The sauce is rich, but not heavy.

This may be my ultimate comfort food.

three cup tofu |

Three Cup Tofu

14 ounce container firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1.5-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, ripped into large pieces

cooked brown rice, for serving

  1. Press tofu with paper towel to soak up excess moisture. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Fry tofu on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Place tofu on paper towels to drain.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add in sesame oil. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in cooking wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, and water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer sauce for 5 minutes. Stir in corn starch mixture and cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  4. Gently stir in tofu and Thai basil and cook for 1 more minute.
  5. Serve immediately over brown rice.


adapted from my mother’s three cup chicken recipe 


Author: Jenni

Dietitian by day and Midwest food blogger by night. Lover of whiskey, running, and all things food.

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