Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken
Photo credit: Rasa Malaysia

Chicken: From Its Origins in the East To A Recipe for Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

Used for food, cock-fighting, and in some cases religious practices, chickens appear to have been domesticated in or near Thailand prior to 7500 BC.  Descendants of the gallus gallus, a red jungle fowl native to northern India and southern China, domesticated chickens allegedly spread into Europe and Africa from the Indus Valley at about 2000 BC. Fast forward to the 20th century, mass production was introduced in the US with a drive to breed as many animals as possible with as little feed as possible. In turn, much of the diversity disappeared in favor of a cross between Britain’s Cornish chicken and the White Plymouth Rock.

Scholars have identified the “taming” of the chicken for human needs into four stages. “The initial domestication took place for the human interests of religion and culture as chickens became a focus of folklore, mythology and religious symbolism. The second stage is coordinated with their geographical dispersal resulting in regional breeds. Cockfighting was popular in many parts of the world at this time, like ancient Rome. Stage three is characterized with the increase of industry and agriculture in Europe and North America and created a popular interest in the selective mating of certain breeds. The fourth stage is associated by industrialized farming and poultry capitalism of the twentieth century” (Potts, 2012, pp. 17-18).

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken

Now that your belly is full with probably more than you cared to know about our feathered friend, heat up the stove and have it over for dinner.  That is unless you’re a vegetarian, then maybe try the recipe with tofu or mushrooms?

According to Bee at Rasa Malaysia, the name “three cup chicken” (三杯鸡) comes from the three key ingredients: sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and soy sauce. “Cups” refer to the equal ratio instead of literal measurement.


  • chicken
  • peeled ginger
  • garlic cloves
  • dark sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • Shaoxing wine
  • dark sweet soy sauce
  • Thai basil leaves
  • baking soda

[Click here for the recipe]


  • A rooster announces to a flock of chickens that he’s found food with a “took, took, took.” But the hens don’t pay attention if they already know that there is food around.
  • Nothing significant was undertaken in the Senate or in the armies in Roman times, without omens being drawn from the sacred chickens raised by priests. The most common method of drawing these omens consisted in examining the manner in which the chickens dealt with grain that was presented to them. If they ate it avidly while stamping their feet and scattering it here and there, the augury was favorable; if they refused to eat and drink, the omen was bad and the undertaking for which it was consulted was abandoned. The Romans were very careful not to give out false omens drawn from the sacred chickens after the fatal adventure of the person who took it into his head to do so under L. Papirius Cursor, consul, in the Roman year 482  (“Sacred Chickens.” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project).
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