This recipe is featured in Cool and Hot in the Garden: Cucumbers and Chili Peppers
Created in Hong Kong, the name of this coveted sauce—a reference to the extra-old (“XO”) cognac enjoyed by the Hong Kong elite—hints at the decadent and classy ingredients it contains. I love this slightly spicy savory sauce on just about anything, but especially mixed into a bowl of fresh noodles. My husband loves it on dumplings, and it is also an excellent condiment to serve alongside steamed white rice and other stir-fry dishes. My mom has crafted a vegetarian version for my sister by substituting peanuts and cashews for the dried seafood. This recipe is easy but somewhat time-consuming because of the soaking required for the scallops and shrimp; consider doubling and freezing it—you’ll be happy you did.
Makes about 473 ml (2 cups)
- 118 ml (½ cup) dried scallops
- 118 ml (½ cup) dried shrimp
- 118 ml (½ cup) garlic cloves, peeled
- 118 ml (½ cup) peeled and sliced fresh ginger
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 fresh, long, red Chinese peppers, seeded and chopped
- 237 ml (1 cup) chopped country ham
- 237 ml (1 cup) canola or corn oil
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) dried red pepper flakes
- Pinch of sugar
1. Place the dried scallops and dried shrimp in a medium bowl and add water to cover by 2.5 cm (1 inch). Allow to soak until completely soft, 4 to 8 hours.
2. Put the garlic, ginger, shallots, and Chinese peppers in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. The aim is to have finely minced ingredients, not to create a paste. Empty the contents into a bowl. Drain the scallops and shrimp, and pulse in food processor until finely minced. Place in the bowl with the garlic mixture.
3. Add the ham to the food processor and pulse until finely minced. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, add the ham and stir occasionally until it begins to crisp, 2–3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining minced ingredients to pan. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the ingredients take on a uniform deep golden brown color. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. When cool, store in a jar in the refrigerator. It will last for about a month.
Recipes adapted from The Chinese Kitchen Garden by Wendy Kiang-Spray (Timber Press 2017)