Paddock To Plate

How To Make XO Sauce

XO Sauce is a flavour packed sauce made with dried shrimp and scallop and spicy seasonings including chilli and garlic. Matt Moran shows you how to make your own! 

XO Sauce is a flavoursome sauce made with dried shrimp and scallop and spicy seasonings including chilli and garlic. The name XO, “extra old”, is borrowed from the naming system for French cognac and is thought to have first originated in Hong Kong. 

The sauce is considered the emperor of all sauces in Hong Kong and many chefs take pride in putting their own stamp on XO Sauce.

XO Sauce can be used in cooking to enhance the flavour of meats, vegetables, noodles, tofu and seafood.

When Matt was a young chef, he would go straight to Chinatown when he finished service and eat Cockles in XO Sauce.

Matt makes his own version of Cockles in XO Sauce - get the full recipe here! 

Serves 6

• 600 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
• 2 heaped tbsp oyster sauce
• 2 heaped tbsp castor sugar
• 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water to form a slurry
• 1 tsp grapeseed oil 
• 1 tbsp water
• 1½ kg purged large cockles
• ½ cup spring onion tops (from about 5 spring onions), thinly sliced on an angle, plus extra to serve
XO paste
• 5 gm shrimp paste, roasted in foil, then crumbled (see note)
• 150 gm dried prawns, soaked overnight in water
• 50 gm dried scallops, soaked in water overnight, drained and dried on paper towel (see note)
• 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
• 150 gm garlic (about 10 cloves), peeled and coarsely chopped
• 150 gm golden shallots (about 4), peeled and coarsely chopped
• 4 long red chillis, coarsely chopped
• 5 birds-eye chillis, coarsely chopped
• 80 gm jamon Iberico,  coarsely chopped


1 To make the XO paste, preheat oven to 180C. Wrap the shrimp paste in a piece of foil and roast until pungent (5 minutes), then cool, coarsely crumble and set aside. Drain the dried prawns (reserve soaking water), coarsely chop the prawns and set aside. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the scallops and prawns and fry until the scallops are crisp (2-3 minutes). Add the garlic and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown (4-5 minutes, don’t overcook or the garlic will become bitter). Add the chillies and jamon, stir occasionally until the jamon is crisp (2-3 minutes), then crumble in the roasted shrimp paste. Remove from heat, then stand to cool slightly then add the reserved prawn soaking liquid, return to the heat and simmer until the water evaporates (5-10 minutes). Set side to cool a little then blend with a stick blender until smooth. Refrigerate in a sterilised jar for up to a month.

2 To make the XO sauce for the cockles , combine 4 tbsp of the XO paste in a  saucepan with the chicken stock, oyster sauce and sugar, bring to the boil, then add 1 tbsp of the cornflour slurry mixture and stir continuously to combine. Bring to the boil again and simmer until thick and glossy and the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon (1-2 minutes).  Set aside and keep warm.
3 Heat a large wok until smoking hot over high heat, add the oil, water and cockles, cover with a lid and cook, shaking wok occasionally, until the cockles open (1 minute). Ladle over the XO sauce, add the sliced spring onion and toss to combine. Serve hot scattered with extra spring onion. 

Note shrimp paste, dried prawns and dried scallops are available from specialist Chinese grocers.

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