Mister Jiu’s Red XO Sauce

Red XO Sauce

Chinese XO sauce at its core is an oil infused with dried seafood, salted meat, and aromatics.

Makesabout 2 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour 30 minutes

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mr. jius xo red sauce sits in a container and being taken out with a metal spoon
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

XO at its core is an oil infused with dried seafood, salted meat, and aromatics. I like playing around within that framework. XO connoisseurs say that an XO should show off what’s gone into it. You want to see morsels of shrimp or threads of scallop. So you have to take care when drying the seafood, then shredding it properly to retain the texture. Once you start cooking, work through each component in order, not cooking anything too long or at too high heat, or it will all turn to mush.

We dry our own seafood because I want to know how the animals were caught and treated afterward. To me, the ultimate luxury will always be using ingredients that have been cared for and thought about. But if you don’t want to start from scratch, you can find quality dried seafood in Chinatown markets. Look for uniform scallops that are about the size of a quarter, and shrimp labeled “wild from Louisiana” about the size of a silver dollar. Keep in mind, when it comes to XO and everything that goes in it, price usually reflects quality.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Tester’s Note

I’ve always loved the name XO Sauce and was so excited to test this recipe out for the Mister Jiu’s cookbook. It’s named after the XO (extra old) designation given to brandies and other liquors, and I remember going to Chinese banquets where a bottle of Hennessy XO graced each table, a sign that the upcoming feast would be luxurious. XO Sauce got its name not because it contains brandy, but because it’s seen as special and fancy, chock-full of expensive dried seafood and salted meats that are cooked down with oil and lots of aromatics. The resulting sauce is indeed extra-special, a condiment that adds a magical kiss of savoriness that’s not-at-all fishy. Stir-fry it with greens or noodles, make a decadent XO and egg fried rice, or spoon it on top of simply steamed fish. – Christine Gallery, Food Editor-at-Large

Red XO Sauce

Chinese XO sauce at its core is an oil infused with dried seafood, salted meat, and aromatics.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes

Makes about 2 cups

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

XO Sauce:

  • 1 cup

    neutral oil

  • 1/3 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger

  • 1/3 cup

    minced shallots

  • 1/4 cup

    thinly sliced (crosswise) green onions (white parts only)

  • 1/4 cup

    minced garlic

  • 4 teaspoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon

    Chinese chile flakes

  • 2 teaspoons

    shrimp paste (preferably Lee Kum Kee shrimp sauce)

  • 4 ounces

    Dried Shrimp or Dried Scallops (store-bought or recipe below)

  • 1/2 cup

    small-diced spicy or fennel salami, casings removed

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    coriander seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    red Sichuan peppercorns

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    anise seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    fennel pollen

Dried Shrimp or Dried Scallops:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    cold water

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons

    to 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 1/4 pounds

    peeled and cleaned large (21 to 25 count) shrimp or large sea scallops, preferably U-10 size

Instructions

XO Sauce:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil until shimmering. Stir in the ginger, shallots, green onions, and garlic; turn the heat to low; and cook until the aromatics are darkened in color, about 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Stir in the tomato paste and chile flakes, then stir in the shrimp paste. Turn the heat to low and cook until very aromatic, about 30 minutes. In a small bowl, cover the dried shrimp or scallops with warm water and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain, then pulse in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until shredded.

  3. Stir the shrimp paste mixture into the garlic mixture. Add the remaining 1/2 cup oil, the shredded shrimp or scallops, and salami and cook over low heat until the salami darkens in color and the oil is red, about 45 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium heat, combine the coriander seeds, peppercorns, and anise seeds and toast, tossing or stirring frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer the contents of the pan to a dish and stir in the fennel pollen. Let cool, then transfer to a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Stir the ground spices into the sauce and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool.

  5. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Dried Shrimp or Dried Scallops:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the water and salt (2 tablespoons if using shrimp 2 1/2 teaspoons if using scallops) and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the shrimp or scallops, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drain the seafood and place in the steamer in a single layer. Cover and steam the shrimp for 20 minutes or the scallops for 1 hour, adding additional water to the pot halfway through as needed.

  3. If you have a dehydrator, use it set to 150ºF for shrimp or 135ºF for scallops. Otherwise, preheat the oven to 150°F and place the seafood on a wire roasting rack set over a baking sheet, arranging them so none is touching.

  4. Dehydrate or bake until the seafood is dried but still pliable and a bit chewy in the middle, about 7 hours for shrimp or 9 hours for scallops, depending on the seafood size and your dehydrator or oven. Let cool, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Recipe Notes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need at least 1 day for brining, dehydrating, and then rehydrating the seafood (unless you buy it).

Reprinted with permission from Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Pete Lee © 2021