This sauce is named after a term for cognac, but is NOT made with cognac. The name indicates that it is special. Which it is, being the most umami overload cooking ingredient in the Hong Kong repertoire
Recipe for XO Sauce
12 TBS dried scallops.
8 TBS dried shrimp.
8 TBS chilipaste (sambal ulek).
4 TBS oyster sauce.
2 TBS sugar.
2 TBS soy sauce.
1 TBS shrimp paste.
½ TBS salt.
One small onion.
One bulb of garlic (a dozen cloves, more or less).
An amount of ginger equivalent to the garlic, or more.
Half a cup cooking oil.
One TBS sesame oil.
Soak shrimp and scallops for a few hours in water, till softened. Drain, reserving liquid, and chop to a somewhat granular state, not too fine.
Mince the garlic, ginger, and onion.
In a capacious pan fry the onion till golden. Add the garlic, ginger, shrimp paste, and chilipaste. When the shrimp paste is cooked (a minute or so) and the garlic and ginger have begun to colour, add the chopped scallop and shrimp. Stir-fry till the oil comes out and the mixture is aromatic. Add everything else including the reserved liquids, and again cook till the oil comes out, thus concentrating the flavour from the soaking liquid in the mixture. Cook a little longer on low to darken, which caramelizes it slightly.
Let it cool completely, and distribute it over containers. There should be a layer of oil on top.
Place one container in the refrigerator, and the others in the deepfreeze.
If all the water has been cooked out, it will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Use either sparingly or liberally.
Most recipes for XO Sauce will include Chinwa ham or Chinese sausage, some substitute preserved pork-belly or even bacon. Those are contra-indicated, as moisture is the great enemy of a substance such as this.
Originally posted here: http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2014/07/xo-sauce-what-and-wherefore.html.