I don’t know why it is called XO sauce, but I can tell you it’s VERY good and I have been hooked ever since I first tasted it– full of flavors from scallops, garlic, shallots, hot peppers etc… I immediately requested recipe from my neighbor who gave it to me. Man, let me tell you that it’s A LOT OF work making it. When I made it the first time, I start from zero in the morning and worked my ass off the entire day– When I finished it was 7pm and my arms and hands hurt from the heat of chopping peppers and from the stove! (I was warned about the long procedure, but I thought since I was already making it so I figured I would make a bigger batch… now I know it’s a BIG mistake!). I learned my lessons. Now I divide the work into 2 days– 1 day preparing, 1 day frying; also I use food processor whenever I can.
This is a very versatile sauce– it can be used as a dipping sauce or in cooking dishes. You can even eat it just with a bowl of steam rice. Since the main ingredient, scallop is not cheap, XO sauce is quite expensive– a small jar is selling for $12 or more. With the homemade ones, you get a whole lot more with much better quality. Make it for Chinese New Year for own use or as a gift to relatives and friends. They’ll love it! XO sauce can be kept in the fridge for months as long as it is cooked thoroughly and away from moisture and heat. I usually keep one jar in the fridge and freeze the rest in several batches, to keep contamination to a minimum. However, if the sauce molds on the top, just discard the moldy part and re-fry the sauce in the wok on low to medium heat until the oil bubbles then remove from heat and cool completely. The scallops might turn crispy but the flavor is still as good.
Homemade XO Sauce Recipe
1 lb dry scallops
1/2 lb dry shrimps
1/2 lb garlic
1/2 lb shallots
1/2 lb red hot chili peppers
1 pack thin sliced bacon
2-3 tbsp (1/2 small jar) Taiwan ‘sah-cha’ sauce
2-3 tbsp oyster sauce
rice cooking wine for soaking dry scallops and dry shrimp
oil for frying
- Rinse dry scallops. Remove any tiny dirty stuff using finger. Drain and put into a big container. Pour rice cooking wine onto to the scallops, covering completely plus 1 inch more from top surface. Cover the container and soak overnight in the fridge. Repeat the procedure with dry shrimps using another container.
- Put soaked scallops in a deep pan (include the rice wine) and steam on high heat for 2 hours. Remove from steamer and drain off any liquid. Reserve the liquid for other cooking use. Repeat the procedure with soaked dry shrimps.
- While the scallops and dry shrimps are steaming, finely chopped(separately) garlic, shallots. Alternatively, you can cut them into small pieces and use food processor to blend as well (small pieces will speed up blending without having liquid coming out from garlic/shallots). Set aside.
- Trim off the bacon fat and reserve for other use. Finely julienne the lean bacon meat. Finely chopped dry shrimps and red chili peppers separately(my food processor can’t blend the peppers to fine grade so I have to chop them on the board– Remember to wear gloves!). Set them aside.
- Heat up a deep wok. Pour enough cooking oil. When the wok is hot enough (test oil with chopstick), fry garlic on high heat, stirring constantly. Adding more oil if necessary. When garlic starts to turn light brown, turn the heat to medium and continue frying for few more minutes. Dish out and use a silicon spatula to scrap out all the oil from the wok.
- Repeat the frying procedure with shallots, bacon, dry shrimps, chili peppers and scallops. Always fry on high heat until the ingredients starts to turn light brown then turn down the heat to medium. Take care not to burn or the XO sauce will have a bitter taste. For shrimps and scallops, be sure to fry until they are aromatic and “dry” (not crispy).
- Return all ingredients back to the wok. Turn heat to medium and stir to combine. Add Taiwan ‘sah-cha’ sauce and oyster sauce to taste (starts with 1-2 tbsp). Continue stirring until the oil bubbles on the surface. Remove from heat. Cool COMPLETELY before transferring to jars. Store in the fridge or freezer.