XO Sauce

300g (11 ounces) dried scallops (mini or large)
300g (11 ounces) dried shrimp (larger ones are higher quality, but small ones will work fine too; don’t use the really tiny ones that are lighter in color and “feathery” in texture. Those aren’t right!)
8 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, divided
Boiling water
14 large shallots, finely diced
3 heads of garlic, finely minced
10 fresh red chili peppers, seeded and finely diced
200g (7 ounces) Jinhua ham (you can also use country ham or another type of cured ham in a pinch)
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons brown sugar
7 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dark mushroom soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup dried chili flakes

Measure out your dried shrimp and scallops into two separate large bowls. Add 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine to each bowl, and pour enough boiling water over the top to submerge the seafood. Soak the shrimp for one hour. Soak the scallops for at least 2 hours (up to 6 hours).

While that’s happening, prepare your shallots and garlic. I highly recommend using a food processor for this. Thinly slice the shallots first by hand, and then pulse into a fine dice. Pulse the whole garlic cloves until minced. Prepare the chili peppers and set aside as well.

When the soaking times have elapsed, drain the seafood. Heat your steamer over high heat, and steam the scallops and the ham in heatproof bowls for 15 minutes. Reserve any liquid that dripped into the bowl with the scallops.

When the 15 minutes have elapsed, remove both from the steamer and let cool. Shred the scallops into threads by breaking them up between your fingers. Using a food processor, pulse the scallops about 6-7 times, in 3 batches, until they resemble short, fine threads. Next, pulse the shrimp about 7-8 times, or until they resemble coarse crumbs. Mince the ham by hand–best to avoid your expensive jinhua ham from resembling cat food!
Collect the water from steaming the scallops (whatever dripped off into the bowl that the scallops were in while you were steaming––the amount will vary each time you do it, and that’s fine), and mix with 1¾ cups chicken stock and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large wok, heat your 7 cups of oil to 225 degrees F–it’s hot enough when a chopstick dipped in the oil bubbles slightly. The oil temperature for the duration of the cooking process can vacillate between 200 and 250 degrees F, or on your stovetop, between medium-high and high heat, depending on what you are adding to the oil and how much. If your wok is too small for safe frying, use any other large, deep pot. A dutch oven would also work well.

Add all of the scallops and let fry for 5 minutes. Next, add the shrimp. Fry the mixture for 15 minutes. Next, add the ham and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the chopped chili peppers and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Using a fine-meshed strainer, transfer the seafood mixture to another large skillet or wok, letting the oil drain off.

Turn the heat on again and let the oil come back up to 225F. Add the shallots. Let fry for 10 minutes. They should become slightly golden but not crispy.

While that’s happening, heat your second wok over medium-high heat. Add the last 6 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine, the 2 tablespoons of dark mushroom soy sauce, and the sugar/chicken stock mixture you prepared earlier. Stir to combine, and simmer to let the liquid cook off.

Next, add the garlic to the shallots and cook for 10 minutes, keeping an eye on your second wok. The garlic should get golden and slightly crisped.

When the liquid has cooked off in your seafood mixture and the shallot/garlic mixture is the correct color, carefully pour the seafood mixture back into the main wok. Lower the heat to medium and stir to combine. Add the fish sauce and chili flakes, stirring to combine.

Transfer to clean, sterile containers, and let cool on the counters before refrigerating. You can eat the XO sauce right away or you can let the flavors meld for 2 to 3 days before digging in!

Add to rice dishes (e.g., our Scallop Fried Rice with XO Sauce and Crispy Garlic), noodle dishes, vegetable dishes, etc. to your heart’s content!

Leave a comment