Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

"XO Sauce"

B Edulis

Recommended Posts

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"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 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?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 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?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 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

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      Sea fish in my local supermarket
      In the past I've started a few topics focusing on categorised food types I find in China. I’ve done
      Mushrooms and Fungi in China
      Chinese Vegetables Illustrated
      Sugar in China
      Chinese Herbs and Spices
      Chinese Pickles and Preserves
      Chinese Hams.
      I’ve enjoyed doing them as I learn a lot and I hope that some people find them useful or just interesting.
      One I’ve always resisted doing is Fish etc in China. Although it’s interesting and I love fish, it just felt too complicated. A lot of the fish and other marine animals I see here, I can’t identify, even if I know the local name. The same species may have different names in different supermarkets or wet markets. And, as everywhere, a lot of fish is simply mislabelled, either out of ignorance or plain fraud.
      However, I’ve decided to give it a go.
      I read that 60% of fish consumed in China is freshwater fish. I doubt that figure refers to fresh fish though. In most of China only freshwater fish is available. Seawater fish doesn’t travel very far inland. It is becoming more available as infrastructure improves, but it’s still low. Dried seawater fish is used, but only in small quantities as is frozen food in general. I live near enough the sea to get fresh sea fish, but 20 years ago when I lived in Hunan I never saw it. Having been brought up yards from the sea, I sorely missed it.
      I’ll start with the freshwater fish. Today, much of this is farmed, but traditionally came from lakes and rivers, as much still does. Most villages in the rural parts have their village fish pond. By far the most popular fish are the various members of the carp family with 草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - Grass Carp being the most raised and consumed. These (and the other freshwater fish) are normally sold live and every supermarket, market (and often restaurants) has ranks of tanks holding them.

      Supermarket Freshwater Fish Tanks

      You point at the one you want and the server nets it out. In markets, super or not, you can either take it away still wriggling or, if you are squeamish, the server will kill, descale and gut it for you. In restaurants, the staff often display the live fish to the table before cooking it.
      These are either steamed with aromatics – garlic, ginger, scallions and coriander leaf / cilantro being common – or braised in a spicy sauce or, less often, a sweet and sour sauce or they are simply fried. It largely depends on the region.
      Note that, in China, nearly all fish is served head on and on-the-bone.

      草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - grass carp
      More tomorrow.
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡 (dà pán jī)

      This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead.


      Chicken chopped on the bone or Boneless skinless chicken thighs  6

      Light soy sauce

      Dark soy sauce

      Shaoxing wine

      Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch.

      Vegetable oil (not olive oil)

      Star anise, 4

      Cinnamon, 1 stick

      Bay leaves, 5 or 6

      Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices

      Garlic.  5 cloves, roughly chopped

      Sichuan peppercorns,  1 tablespoon

      Whole dried red chillies,   6 -10  (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better.

      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks


      Scallion, 2 sliced.

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1½ teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chilies. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and, if in the USA, Shaoxing wine.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
    • By liuzhou
      Way back in the 1990’s, I was living in west Hunan, a truly beautiful part of China. One day, some colleagues suggested we all go for lunch the next day, a Saturday. Seemed reasonable to me. I like a bit of lunch.
      “OK. We’ll pick you up at 7 am.”
      “Excuse me? 7 am for lunch?
      “Yes. We have to go by car.”
      Well, of course, they finally picked me up at 8.30, drove in circles for an hour trying to find the guy who knew the way, then headed off into the wilds of Hunan. We drove for hours, but the scenery was beautiful, and the thousand foot drops at the side of the crash barrier free road as we headed up the mountains certainly kept me awake.
      After an eternity of bad driving along hair-raising roads which had this old atheist praying, we stopped at a run down shack in the middle of nowhere. I assumed that this was a temporary stop because the driver needed to cop a urination or something, but no. This was our lunch venue.
      We shuffled into one of the two rooms the shack consisted of and I distinctly remember that one of my hosts took charge of the lunch ordering process.
      “We want lunch for eight.” There was no menu.
      The waitress, who was also the cook, scuttled away to the other room of the shack which was apparently a kitchen.
      We sat there for a while discussing the shocking rise in bean sprout prices and other matters of national importance, then the first dish turned up. A pile of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies. It was delicious.
      “What is this meat?” I asked.
      About half of the party spoke some English, but my Chinese was even worse than it is now, so communications weren’t all they could be. There was a brief (by Chinese standards) meeting and they announced:
      “It’s wild animal.”
      Over the next hour or so, several other dishes arrived. They were all piles of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies, but the sauces and vegetable accompaniments varied. And all were very, very good indeed.
      “What’s this one?” I ventured.
      “A different wild animal.”
      “And this?”
      “Another wild animal.”
      “And this?”
      “A wild animal which is not the wild animal in the other dishes”
      I wandered off to the kitchen, as you can do in rural Chinese restaurants, and inspected the contents of their larder, fridge, etc. No clues.
      I returned to the table with a bit of an idea.
      “Please write down the Chinese names of all these animals we have eaten. I will look in my dictionary when I get home.”
      They looked at each other, consulted, argued and finally announced:
      “Sorry! We don’t know in Chinese either. “
      Whether that was true or just a way to get out of telling me what I had eaten, I’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant again.
      This all took place way back in the days before digital cameras, so I have no illustrations from that particular meal. But I’m guessing one of the dishes was bamboo rat.
      No pandas or tigers were injured in the making of this post
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.


      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
      Then into lunch:


      Chicken Soup

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.

      Stir fried lotus root

      Daikon Radish

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable

      Fried Beans

      Steamed Pumpkin


      Beef with Bitter Melon

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice


      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.




      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.

      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.

      And here they are:
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
    • By liuzhou
      It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn).
      It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home.
      In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".)
      10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001.

      The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy.

      Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen”

      Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required.

      Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping.

      Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer.

      Whole roast lamb or roast chicken

      Lamb Kebabs

      Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG

      Kebab stall


      Different crab

      Sweet sticky rice balls

      Things on sticks

      Grilled scorpions

      Pig bones and bits

      And much more.
      To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...