Hong Kong ranks up there among my favourite cities. I love it’s vibrance, diversity and the fact that I can indulge in two of my favourite hobbies when I’m there. Food and shopping. I love that the malls close at 10 pm and that they take their sales very seriously (nothing perks me up more than a sign saying 70% off!). It’s not unheard of to spend the whole day shopping at a mall and then at night, despite the aching feet, we continue on to the night markets. Of course there’s also the food. On my last trip there with my Mom, sisters and aunt, indulged in dim sum, peking duck and roast goose in between marathon shopping.
I’m sure though that Hong Kong isn’t for everyone. Some may complain about the pollution or the cramped living spaces. I know for certain my husband doesn’t get the same thrill when setting foot in a new mall and he makes numerous excuses when I ask him to come shopping with me.
But once you acquire the taste for Hong Kong – really, you’re hooked! It’s a bit like this XO Sauce which is used as a condiment and is thought to have first originated in Hong Kong. According to Gourmet Traveller, XO Sauce was named after the XO Cognac to symbolize wealth, and status. The dish is used as a relish and made from chillies, shallots, garlic, dried scallops, dried shrimps and Chinese ham (we substitute prosciutto as Chinese Ham is hard to come by in Australia). For some, the sauce can be overpowering but to me it’s majestic and worth of it’s title as the Emperor of All Sauces. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is from Tony Tan which was printed in the Australian Gourmet Traveller and was pointed out by Ellie.
The sauce is made by first deep frying the dried scallops and prawns and then adding the other ingredients and cooking over a medium heat for around an hour. The result, like the destination that has made this sauce so popular, is a multi-layered paste – spicy, salty, sweet and very addictive. XO Sauce can seem labour intensive but I used my thermomix to chop the garlic, shallots and I am sure a food processor would work just as well.
XO is a fantastic way to enhance the flavour of certain dishes. Dumplings, stir fries, noodles or even as a topping for rice and beancurd. In this recipe I used the XO sauce as a flavour base for a steaming bowl of pippies on top of egg noodles.
XO Sauce with Pippies
Recipe from Tony Tan
- 25 grams dried scallops
- 75 grams dried prawns
- 250 ml vegetable oil
- 20 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 6 french shallots, finely chopped
- 80 grams prosciutto, finely shredded
- 4 red chilies, seeded, finely chopped
- 15 grams dried long chilies, soaked in warm water for around 20 minutes, finely chopped
- 5 grams roasted shrimp paste (belacan – placed in foil and toasted over a gas stove flame or in the oven)
- 15 grams sugar, or to taste
- Soak the dried scallops and dried prawns separately in 125 ml hot water each until plump (preferably overnight)
- Drain the scallops and reserve the water. Tear the scallops into fine shreds, pat it dry on absorbent paper and set aside. Drain the prawns, reserve water and chop them finely and set aside.
- Heat 125 ml of the oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat and add the scallops to deep fry until very crisp (around 1 to 2 minutes; cover with the lid as they may spit) Drain well and reserve the oil. Wipe out the wok with absorbent paper, add the reserved oil and remaining oil and return to medium heat.
- Add the garlic, shallots and dried prawns and stir continuously until golden brown (around 4 to 5 minutes)
- Add the prosciutto, fresh chili, and dried chili, fry for a few seconds (be careful it might burn easily), then add the shrimp paste, fried scallops and reserved scallop and prawn water and stir continuously for a few seconds.
- Add the remaining ingredients and a pinch of salt and stir occasionally until fragrant and water has completely evaporated (it took me around an hour over low heat)
- Remove from heat, strain (reserve oil), transfer solids to a sterile jar, then pour in enough reserved oil to cover. Makes about 2 cups. XO sauce will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for 1 month
For the pippies, I sauteed around 100 grams of the XO sauce with a kilo of pippies. Serve with noodles or steamed rice.
Note: A thermomix is great for making this sauce – it’s perfect to use for chopping/shredding all the ingredients.