Xo sauce is a classic cantonese sauce that works perfectly with seafood. What makes Xo sauce so special is its listed premium ingredients that give the sauce tons of umami and elegance to follow. The most expensive ingredient that goes into a good Xo sauce has to be dried scallops. I'm sure after sourcing these online you will quickly see how expensive they can be, however, these can quite simply be made at home using fresh scallops and a little bit of time. I want the focus of this recipe on how to make a good Xo sauce, although I wanted to keep things nice and simple and allow the ingredients to do the talking! With all that said let's get straight to it!
To serve 4 plus extra Xo for keeps
Total Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins / Total Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
30g dried scallops
30g dried shrimp
30g prosciutto ham
5 garlic cloves
2 red chillies
1 1/2 tbsp gochugaru (korean red pepper)
1-2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp white sugar
150ml rapeseed oil
pinch of salt
1 large cod fillet or 4 small cod pieces
2 pak choi
1/2 bunch spring onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soy
1 tsp white sugar
Before we begin to make up the Xo sauce I want to go through buying dried scallops. Usually the larger you purchase the more expensive the scallops become, however, as they are so expensive I find making your own dried scallops much cheaper and beneficial. To briefly go over on how to make dried scallops start by buying 10-12 small Patagonian scallops or 6 larger scallops. briefly season the scallops with 1 tsp of white sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix well then pan fry on a low heat on either side until cooked with no colour. Next place the scallops onto a baking tray and dehydrate for 5-6 hours at a temperature of 75°c. When completely dried, allow to cool and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. To make the Xo, start by hydrating 30g of dried scallops and 30g of dried shrimp in 2 separate bowls by adding enough hot water to cover. Allow the scallops and shrimp to hydrate in the hot water for 10-15 minutes until softened. then when ready drain from the water. Start by adding the scallops to a mortar and pestle then briefly pound until just broken down. Add the shredded scallops to a bowl then add the dried shrimp to the mortar and pestle and again briefly pound. We still want a little texture, therefore, try not to pound too much.
3. Before we begin to cook the Xo sauce we need to prepare the remaining ingredients. Slice 30g of prosciutto ham into thin strips, peel and slice 3 shallots into slices, deseed and slice 2 red chillies into a julienne and peel and mince 5 garlic cloves. Place all of the prepared ingredients separately onto a plate or tray and we can start to cook.
4. Place a large pan or saucepan onto a medium to low heat then add a generous amount of cooking oil (approx 50ml of the 150ml in the ingredients list). Add the sliced, shallots, garlic and chilli first, then fry on a low heat for 6-8 minutes or until broken down and fragrant. Next add the sliced prosciutto ham, the ground dried scallops and prawns and stir fry for a further 1-2 minutes. Next we want to incorporate the remaining ingredients to make the sauce, add 1 1/2 tbsp of gochugaru, 1 tbsp dark soy, 1 tbsp of white sugar, a pinch of salt and the remaining 100mls of oil. Ensure the heat is down to medium low and slowly cook the sauce almost like a confit for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally.
5. After a slow 30-40 minute cook the Xo should have become a deep dark colour with all of the ingredients becoming slightly jammy. Adjust the seasoning by adding additional salt, sugar or dark soy if too light then when happy transfer to a sealable container and allow to cool. When ready store in the refrigerator and this sauce can be kept for up to 6 months. We will not use all of the sauce for this recipe, however, it's not really practical to make Xo per recipe.
Cod and Vegetables:
6. Now that we have the Xo sauce made up we can move onto a few simple components to finish the dish. For this recipe I use cod fillets by briefly curing then rolling the fillets almost like a ballantine, however, feel free to simply pan fry various white fish or shellfish to go with the Xo. Start by placing skinless cod fillets or 1 large trimmed cod fillet onto a tray then cover with rock salt on both sides. Allow the cod fillets to sit in the salt for 6-8 minutes to briefly cure then wash in ice cold water to remove the salt. Dry the fillets with kitchen paper then when dry, place 2 of the fillets or 1 large fillet onto clingfilm. As I could only source small cod fillets I simply placed 2 fillets directly on top of each other to make a larger thicker roll of cod, however, if you manage to find a large fillet of cod then just roll that as it is. Roll the cod fillets by wrapping a few layers of clingfilm tightly over the cod whilst rolling. When tight, make a knot on the corners and store in the refrigerator to set (you can use a freezer to speed up this process).
7. When set and the cod has become much firmer slice the roll into the desired sized portion keeping the clingfilm on. When ready place the cod portions to one side until ready to cook.
8. To add some freshness and greenery to the dish simply slice 1/2 bunch of spring onions into a fine julienne then add to ice water to curl. For the pak choi I went a little bit fancy and Japanese like by tightly bunching them together, however, feel free to just blanch and add the pak choi as they are if prefered. Start by peeling off the leaves then cut each leaf into slightly thinner strips. Add the pak choi leaves to a pan of boiling water and briefly blanch for 1 minute until softened. When ready chill in ice cold water then drain well, when drained gather a small bunch of the pak choi together then squeeze tightly to remove any excess water and to bunch together. Slice the bunches into a desired size then place each bunch of pak choi to one side for now.