What is XO sauce?

XO sauce contains shallots.

XO sauce is based on seafood and is salty, sweet and spicy at the same time. Called “caviar of the Orient,” this multi-faceted sauce also contains other ingredients like shallots, garlic, and pepper. Cooks use the sauce as a condiment, relish, and a way to enhance the flavors of a dish. Created in the 1980s in Hong Kong, the sauce is very popular in Cantonese cuisine, particularly in southern China, and is usually found as a thick paste. Many consider XO sauce to be the emperor of sauces, and it was originally served exclusively in gourmet seafood restaurants.

XO sauce is named after a particular brand of cognac, also called XO.

The sauce has become popular all over the world and people can find ready-made versions in Asian supermarkets. Named after a private brand of cognac called XO, which stands for extra old, the sauce was sold in a liqueur-like package. Cognac was considered a luxury item in ancient times and it was a symbol of prestige to present it as a gift. The term XO came to be associated with exclusivity, luxury, prestige and high quality. The sauce got its name to denote its unique status, and most of the ingredients used to prepare it are a little pricey.

Extremely versatile, cooks use this sauce to flavor rice or pasta, coat bean curds, add it to stir-fries, or simply use it as a sauce. Many exotic preparations call for a dash of XO sauce, such as pumpkin and pork with XO sauce, XO sauce with peas, or oysters in XO sauce. The ingredients are mainly dried shrimp, garlic and dried scallops. Various spices, Chinese ham, onion and dried fish are some of the other ingredients used to make this dish. It is possible to do it at home, although it is quite laborious and requires a lot of time.

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The process involves soaking dried shrimp and scallops overnight in water until they are completely rehydrated. The cook drains the prawns and scallops and chops them finely. He then chops the shallots and garlic in a food processor and removes the seeds from the fresh, dried peppers. Then the cook chops them together with the ham and separates them. Lastly, he tosses the scallops into hot oil and fries them until crispy.

The cook stirs the mixture continuously, adding more oil if necessary. Salt, pepper and sugar are the next step, along with a dash of oyster sauce. The cook fries the sauce for about an hour in total, until all the ingredients combine to give off a complex, layered flavor.

The sauce is ready when it takes on a beautiful mahogany brown color and reaches the consistency of a dry, flaky paste. After cooling, it can be transferred to sterile jars and stored in the refrigerator. Cooks prefer to prepare the sauce in bulk to make the most of expensive ingredients.

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