• Diamond shell clams in XO sauce (Food Safari Water)Source: Food Safari Water

Named after a brand of XO Cognac (extra-old), to denote luxuriousness, this Chinese condiment adds a punch of flavour that makes it well worth the extra effort it takes to prepare. Food Safari Water






Skill level

Average: 3 (4 votes)


  • 1 kg Diamond shell clams or pippies
  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 30 g long red chilli, finely chopped
  • 20 g garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 g ginger, finely chopped
  • 200 g XO sauce (see below)
  • 80 ml ( cup) chicken stock
  • 20 g kuzu starch mixed with 50ml water
  • 30 g spring onion, finely sliced
  • handful coriander, leaves picked


XO sauce 

  • 200 g dried prawns
  • 300 g dried scallops
  • 90 ml mirin
  • 90 ml shaoxing 
  • 180 g speck, rind removed
  • 7 g garlic
  • 37 g salted black beans 
  • 7 g red chilli
  • 150 ml vegetable oil 
  • 150 g crispy fried shallots 
  • 5 g chilli flakes
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 75 ml soy paste
  • 70 ml chilli oil

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time: overnight

For the XO sauce, separately soak the dried prawns and scallops in half the mixture of mirin and shaoxing each overnight.

Steam the scallops in the soaking liquid for 1- 1½ hours or until plump and rehydrated and easily pulled apart. Gently mash and pull apart with two forks. Drain the scallops and keep the liquid. Drain the shrimp and discard the liquid.

Place the speck in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the consistency of mince. Blend the garlic, black beans and chilli into a paste.

Heat the oil in a large wok until 130˚C – 140 ˚C. Add the minced speck and fry for 2-4 minutes or until crispy. Add the drained prawns and fry for another 2-4 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is evenly caramelized. Add the shredded/flossed scallops and cook for 2-4 minutes.

Add the garlic and black bean paste and stir over low heat for 2-4 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the fried shallots, chilli flakes and sugar. Transfer to a saucepan and add the soy paste, soaking liquor from the dried scallops and the chilli oil. Simmer over very low heat, stirring continuously for 20 minutes until it has reached a jam-like consistency and all the flavours have emulsified. Remove from the heat. Makes about 1 litre.

To cook the clams, place in a large frying pan over high heat. Cover and steam for 2-3 minutes or until just opened.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and stir fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the XO sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, kudzu mixture, steamed clams and enough of the clam steaming liquid to make a sauce. Continue to stir-fry until the clams are well coated in the sauce. Add half the spring onion and remove from the heat. Garnish with the remaining spring onions and coriander.

Maeve O'Meara is back in Food Safari Water starting 8pm, Wednesday 1 August on SBS and then you can catch-up on all episodes via SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.