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Homemade XO Sauce

XO sauce recipe

My enthusiasm for cooking didn’t sprout until I was in my mid-twenties despite helping my mother in the kitchen since I was kid. I always got stuck with doing all the crappy jobs like washing the vegetables or peeling the prawns. I also come from a family of 6 stubborn daughters. Family meal times were always a brewing teapot of turmoil.

Cooking had always presented itself as a nuisance much like cleaning the dishes. It wasn’t until a chance 3 month backpacking trip through South East Asia that ignited a passion about food. It was mostly the street cart vendors that caught my attention. I loved watching them prepare my order. Throwing together a rainbow of ingredients and smashing them up or searing them in a flaming wok. It was very theatrical and dramatic and it all seemed easy.

best XO sauce recipe

I found my inner foodie during this trip and it seemed only natural that I became curious about the ingredients and the magic that could be created when it all came together at the right temperature. My first experiments were utter failures but I kept trying. I bought some cookbooks, asked my mother for advice and made sure I followed recipes word-for-word.

It no longer seemed like such a drag to cook. It became a hobby. It made me happy that I was creating something that was solely for my personal enjoyment. When my cooking skills started to improve my palate evolved as well. I stopped putting up with insipid store bought ingredients and started making some things at home.authentic XO sauce

This sauce is considered the emperor of all sauces in Hong Kong. Many chefs create their own version and keep the recipe with absolute secrecy. Here is my homemade version that will set your tastebuds on fire.

This sauce is nothing like the gooey sauces that you find in the supermarket aisle. It is full of flavour and fire. With just a couple of tablespoons it can transform your stir-fry vegetables from bland to WHAM! You can add some to your fried rice for something different or dip your dumplings into it for a special kick. You can even dollop a bit onto some fried eggs. It is also a fraction of the cost of the store bought variety that can vary in quality.

Homemade XO Sauce
2 cups vegetable oil
1 onion, diced finely
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons shredded dried scallops
85g medium-sized dried shrimp
100g salted pork, diced finely
40 dried chillies
2 fresh long red chillies, deseeded and chopped finely
½ teaspoon salt

Heat a wok over high heat, add ½ cup of the oil and carefully coat the wok with the oil. When a little bit of white smoke appears, add the onion and garlic and stir gently until the garlic becomes golden in colour. Add the remaining oil, scallops, shrimp, pork, dried chilli, fresh chilli and salt. Gently stir and bring to the boil. Lower the temperature to medium and cook for approx 10 minutes – make sure the mixture is constantly bubbling but is not burning. Take the mixture off the heat and transfer the contents to a glass bowl to cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature and place in the food processor and whiz for 10 seconds. The ingredients should just be roughly chopped and not be fine. The sauce is now ready be used.

The sauce will keep for up to 3 months and the flavours will develop over time

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  1. Richard Elliot

    Beautiful photos Amy.

    I’ve never known what XO sauce was, it’s great to finally see a recipe. I don’t know why, but I thought it had alcohol in. You’ve finally educated me! :-)

  2. Maris(In Good Taste)

    I have learned something new and I love it!

  3. Kulsum at JourneyKitchen

    Who knew what’s XO sauce :-) Now I do! And looking at the ingredients (minus pork) looks something I would love

  4. Jessica

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Amy! I was looking around yours and you have beautiful photos and great recipes.

    It’s such a coincidence but I was trying to find XO sauce (because I miss it so much) at an Asian market near my place but they didn’t have it in stock! Now I can make my own! Thank you for sharing!


  5. Nami @ Just One Cookbook

    Amy, your writing is beautiful. I really enjoyed reading this post. I also helped my mom doing all sorts of prep work so I didn’t even want to cook when I started to live alone (well I did minor cooking). It was more of “work” for me than “fun”. In my case, kids have changed me, but I also started to cook seriously later in my life. But it’s interesting how much I remember about cooking from my mom. Anyway, your XO sauce is amazing! I have never made any sauce besides…dressing? I’ll keep this recipe and want to try it out one day. “Homemade” sounds always nice! Great post!

  6. Adora’s Box

    Can’t eat without chilli oil. If this is the kind of chilli oil I have, I won’t need anything else. I’ll just eat this with rice. This is so gooood, Amy!

  7. christine

    Love XO sauce! So expensive in stores and glad it can be home made. Question though! What do you mean by salted pork? Raw pork with salt and then cooked? Or is it like hom-knee (sorry for bad canto pinyin…the dried salted fish)?

    Thanks so much again!

  8. kankana

    I too started cooking very late in life! Dried shrimp is something i adore and make pickle with that. This looks so yummy .. mouthwatering!

  9. OohLookBel

    Mmm, fabulous photos, I can smell the fragrant shrimp, chilli and scallop already. At least, it’s an imaginary fragrance until I open my jar of store-bought XO sauce 😉

  10. Sherilyn @ Wholepromise

    I love anything with chilli in it and anything homemade. This would be a hit with my husband.

  11. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Oh! I can almost smell that from here. I would love a bottle of that sitting in my fridge. Not sure it would last a whole six months though…

  12. Megan

    Ooh this looks so good! And I love the photos on the newspaper. Such a good idea!

  13. Joanne

    I’ve heard a LOT about XO sauce before but have never seen a homemade recipe for it! I’m excited because I’ve always wanted to try it!

  14. cindy

    this looks great! XO sauce seems like such an ambitious recipe to me. i’m loving the newspaper and photos, so good!

  15. Aubrey

    Your photos are gorgeous! I’ve not familiar with XO sauce but it sounds like a super delicious condiment. And I love those little jars you used for the sauce!

  16. Nari

    Can I use unsmoked bacon for the salt pork? Or does it have to be a specific brand?

    Great recipe, I can’t wait to make it!

    • tinytearoom

      Hello Nari and Christine,

      Salted Pork is a Chinese specialty. The pork is raw and salted over a period of time. You can find it in some asian grocery stores. It is vacuumed-packed.
      If you are not able to find it you can substitute it with unsmoked ham, but decrease the amount from 100g to 80g.

      Thank you for stopping by.

  17. Heidi – Apples Under My Bed

    ok yep my man would LOVE this. Will have to make it for him, thanks! Love that you can keep it for a while, and that it just develops more flavour!
    Heidi xo

  18. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    It’s always such a nice feeling when you realize that you can make something you have always bought yourself at home better and cheaper.

  19. Jun

    Love this entry… Thanks for sharing! I’ll try making some myself :)

  20. Heidi @ Food Doodles

    That looks great. I had no idea what XO sauce was so I’m glad I read your post. We don’t have very much selection where we live for good sauces anyways so I’m glad you shared this recipe 😀

  21. yummychunklet

    This sauce sounds delicious! I like making “storebought” staples at home. They always end up tasting better!

  22. Holly

    Yum Amy!!! This sauce sounds absolutely divine – I cannot wait to impress my friends with it at my next dinner party! 5 sisters hey?!! What a busy household you would have had – I love it! xx

  23. daphne

    Hi Amy, thanks for visiting my blog 😉 I’m so glad you did because now I have found yours! I agree that xo sauce is the king of all sauces, goes well with pretty much everything! lovely tips and ideas here.

  24. tigerfish

    XO sauce is so good in many dishes, especially stir-fries. Now you have made your own, you don’t hv to depend on store-bought ones anymore – typically overpriced and the quality is not as superb as what you have :)

  25. Tamara

    perfect! I love sauces, different combinations and home made are always way better than store bought versions!

  26. Laura

    I love WHAM! This sounds delicious and definitely worth a try.

  27. Umm Mymoonah

    I never knew we can make this sauce on our own, spicy and yummy!

  28. Marla

    This briny sauce sounds amazing! Fun to learn where your passion for cooking began :)

  29. Melissa

    I love the colour of your homemade sauce looks absolutely divine! So great that it will keep for a long period of time and the flavour will develop even more :-)

  30. crustabakes

    I love XO sauce. They are definitely the emperor of all sauces. I can eat them all day with just plain white rice!

  31. Stevie

    I’ve always wondered what one used the dried scallop for. This sauce sounds excellent! I’m getting inspired by your cooking. So glad that you stuck with it!

  32. bonnie

    love to hear where your passion began and this XO sauce is stunning, thanks for sharing. I would love to have a bottle tucked in my fridge.

  33. GourmetGetaways

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I never would of thought there could be a homemade version of this famous sauce.


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