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Here is a recipe I found for it:


Thanks for the XO sauce recipe JH. The dried conpoy and dried shrimp look familiar. But jinhua ham and salted fish is new to me. I am not really sure how the taste of salted fish would blend in to this.

Would be good to experiment...

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 1 year later...

I haven't tried it yet, but for the amount of money you have to pay for such a small jar (plus the extraordinary amount of ingredients in it), it seems that you'd probably be much better off just using MSG. It seems like it's just a marketing gimmick to just combine every Umami ingredient on the planet into one sauce and put XO on the label to give companies an excuse to jack up the price.

Is it all it's hyped up to be?

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I, too, would like to know the answer since I've been itching to buy the $15 tiny jar in our local supermarket. What can I do with it? Is it worth it???

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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In a word - yes. I've never had a jarred version - but Cantonese restaurants in HK and Vancouver make their own XO suaces in house, from dried seafood and chilies. The quality of the sauce is of course dependent on the quality of the dried ingredients that go into it.

Most of the time, it is used as a dipping sauce. It works particularly well with plain seafood - such as har gow - as it lifts and sharpens the inherent sweetness of the shrimp. I have also seen it used to stir fry pork jowls or even just sugar snap peas - where again it lifts the blank sweetness of the vegetables or pork. Good XO sauce should have a sweet briny spiciness to it. It should not be fishy or oily tasting.

The jarred versions are probably an offshoot of this traditionally restaurant made condiment. The 'XO' name comes from, of course, the Hong Kong love of anything that sounds expensive.

MSG is not a substitue for XO sauce.

To see if you like it - go to a good dim sum place and ask for XO dipping sauce. Usually it is free, but I've also heard of places charging for it. I think it is perfect with things like Har Gow, Rice Rolls, and even well made spring rolls. It's one of those things that if the restaurant serves a good XO sauce - it's probably a decent place to eat.

Edited by canucklehead (log)
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The supermarket versions are not good examples of XO sauce. As canucklehead says, it depends on the quality of ingredients - and for the good stuff, you have to buy it from restaurants that make their own. Even then, I'd be selective about which restaurant to buy it from. The best versions (in my opinion) have a lot of dried scallops compared to (relatively) cheaper ingredients such as dried shrimp and Chinese ham - I like it to taste very scallop-y. Others disagree, though.

All the top Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong make their own and sell it.

I also like it as a dipping sauce, or mixed with boiled noodles (preferably crab or shirmp-roe noodles) for a quick meal.

Edited by aprilmei (log)
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XO Sauce is not just the addition of MSG.

I agree with what canucklehead and aprilmei said. The XO sauce sold in the Asian markets do not do justice to the "XO sauce" name. I have bought many times the "XO Chili Sauce" made by Yank Sing, which they charge close to USD$6 for a small bottle. The taste is better, IMO one grade higher, than their flagship Yank Sing Chili Sauce. But still far from the real XO sauce that I have tasted in some high-end Chinese restaurants.

Perhaps this sauce is simply not replicatable as a industrially manufactured, jarred sauce - much like those "King Pao" sauce, "Mapo Tofo" sauce, or "Black Bean" sauce made by Lee Kum Kee or the likes - far inferior than the real thing.

What makes a "XO sauce"? Different restaurants have different recipes. Most are a combination of dried scallop, dried shrimp, dried ham, shrimp roe, chili, garlic and other seasoning. It is a very nice condiment for dim sums and for stir-frying seafood, Cantonese style, along with some vegetables like snap peas, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, etc..

I doubt it if a restaurant (in North America where I live at least) would provide XO sauce for free. Most that I have seen - the restaurant charges about USD$2.00 for a small dish. If you can squeeze some extra dollars out of a customer, why not?

I can testify hat "XO Sauce" was not heard of before the 80's in Hong Kong. Now it is quite well-known.

I found the following NY Times article that talked about the origin of "XO Sauce". I quote:


The motivation for developing the sauce seems beyond dispute. ''I think it's one of those things where restaurants thought, 'How can we squeeze more money out of the customers?' '' Mr. Hom said. There was a lot of money to be squeezed in Hong Kong at the time. Why not take a basic chili sauce, add some expensive ingredients like dried scallops, give it a marketable name and charge a premium for it? At the time, wealthy diners were ordering the expensive, aged XO-grade Cognac at dinner and drinking it by the bottle through the meal. ''XO'' had just the right splurgy connotations of luxury, like Rolex or Rolls-Royce.


Click here for the full article.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I've made it but I couldn't give you amounts. I didn't add any dried shrimp or ham because as I mentioned before, I like the scallops part the best.

Dried scallops: soak for a few hours then steam until very tender (this is important; I didn't steam them long enough so they were too chewy in the finished product)

Garlic, minced

Shallots, minced

Dried and fresh chillies (I used Thai chillies), chopped

Oil (you need more than you think is healthy)

Dried shrimp roe

Soy sauce, if needed

Shred the steamed scallops. Heat some oil in a pan, add the garlic and shallots and cook until soft. Add the fresh and dried chillies and cook for a few minutes then add the scallops. You'll probably need to add more oil - I just kept adding it until it looked right. It should be very oily - it's a condiment, after all - but not too much oil should be floating to the surface. I cooked it over low heat for about 45 minutes but I was trying to soften the scallops (it didn't work). If it needs it, add some soy sauce then stir in dried shrimp roe.

I made it because I was curious and had loads of dried scallops. It's easier (for me) to buy it and the quality sold by restaurants in Hong Kong is so high, I don't think I could make it any better.

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Thanks, aprilmei! I don't think I can get shrimp roe around here, but I do have some good ham I could add.

The shrimp roe isn't necessary. The only ingredients that are consistent from one XO sauce to the next are the dried scallops, oil and chillies.

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Here is a recipe for XO sauce - hope this helps. :)

Allez Cuisine - JH


XO Sauce


150 grams fresh red chilis

250 grams dried scallops (conpoy)

150 grams garlic clove, minced

150 grams onion, finely diced

100 grams tiny dried shrimp (unshelled variety)

50 grams Jinhua ham (you can substitute Smithfield ham or proscuttio)

50 grams salted cured fish

25 grams large dried shrimp (shelled variety)

1/2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper (mix with ground Szechuan peppercorn if desired)


Wash and remove the seeds and stems from the chilies. Heat wok on low and add oil for stir-frying. When oil is ready, add the chilies. Stir-fry until they are heated through.

Remove the chilies from the heat and drain. Dry in the sun until completely dried (about 2 - 3 days). Reconstitute conpoy (dried scallops) by soaking in water for 2-3 hours, then steaming for 3 hours until soft. Reserve the liquid accumulated as a result of steaming. When cooled, finely shred the conpoy by hand.

Soak the tiny shrimp in water for 3 hours. Drain the shrimp and mince finely.

Finely dice ham into 2mm cubes. Dice fish into 3mm cubes.

Heat wok on high heat and add up to 2 - 4 cups* oil for frying. Add garlic, onion, and tiny shrimp and fry until the mixture stops steaming? At that point add the chilies, ham, and fish, and continue to cook until chilies become translucent. Add the conpoy and shelled dried shrimp and ground black pepper and turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook until only a little steam rises from the mixture. Remove from the heat and cool. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

*1 bowl = approximately 1 cup. In this recipe I would recommend starting with a smaller amount of oil and increasing as desired for taste.

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The motivation for developing the sauce seems beyond dispute. ''I think it's one of those things where restaurants thought, 'How can we squeeze more money out of the customers?' '' Mr. Hom said. There was a lot of money to be squeezed in Hong Kong at the time. Why not take a basic chili sauce, add some expensive ingredients like dried scallops, give it a marketable name and charge a premium for it? At the time, wealthy diners were ordering the expensive, aged XO-grade Cognac at dinner and drinking it by the bottle through the meal. ''XO'' had just the right splurgy connotations of luxury, like Rolex or Rolls-Royce.


Click here for the full article.

hahahah I love that

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If XO sauce were free at restaurants wouldn't all the customers order it? Chinese folks aren't ones to pass up a bargain.

At higher end places - I usually see it on the table already. Otherwise you would ask for it. I think that this is to make sure that you really want it - and not let it go to waste. These days I think most Chinese diners don't want to be wasteful vs. going for the bargain just for the sake of it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just reporting back on my XO sauce making experience. Taking hints from several different recipes, I made up a batch using dried scallops, dried shrimp, shallots, garlic, fresh chilis, dried chilis, country ham, and various other seasonings. I've never actually had XO sauce before so I wasn't sure how it was supposed to taste, but the end result turned out to be quite delicious.

Now that I have two peanut butter jars worth of XO sauce, can anyone suggest interesting ways to use it besides a table condiment?

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Now that I have two peanut butter jars worth of XO sauce, can anyone suggest interesting ways to use it besides a table condiment?

Stir-fry cheung fun with XO sauce. Stir-fry daikon cake. Cantonese seafood stir-fries. XO sauce and e-fu noodles (+ shrimp or mixed seafood). XO sauce and pan-fried shrimp. Plenty of ideas...

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Just mix it into boiled egg noodles. It's as fast as making instant noodles but a lot more delicious.

You'll be very thirsty afterwards, though.

I've never been a fan of XO sauce and always wondered what the big deal was. In dishes where it was an added flavor to other flavors, it just didn't move me. But maybe just adding some to plain noodles would give me some apreciation for it.

Thanks for the idea.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i found this topic because i was looking for XO sauce recipes after having a gorgeous shrimp and scallop on XO sauce dish tonight.

can anyone comment on, when buying conpoy, they have the little, small, dry cheap ones, and the big, expensive ones? i can't see, if you're going to steam and shred them anyway, what difference it would make, but i could be wrong? thanks in advance for any info. :biggrin:

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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