• Liaw family XO sauce (Adam Liaw)Source: Adam Liaw

XO sauce only appeared in Cantonese cuisine the 1980s. It’s a collection of the most prized ingredients from around China, and it was named after XO cognac – the height of sophistication in Hong Kong at the time. The dried scallops are a little expensive, but that’s kind of the point. Destination Flavour China 

500 ml





Skill level

Average: 3.3 (143 votes)


  • 50 g dried scallops
  • 50 g dried shrimp
  • 500 ml (2 cups) peanut oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large red or French shallots, minced
  • 6 long fresh red chillies, seeded and minced
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, white central core only, finely shredded
  • 50 g Jinhua ham or prosciutto, finely shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder (preferably Korean)
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce

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.


This recipe makes about 500 ml (2 cups).

Soaking time 1 hour

1. Soak the scallops and shrimp separately each in 250 ml (1 cup) hot water for at least 1 hour.

2. Drain the scallops well, reserving the soaking liquid, then shred the scallops by pounding them in a mortar to separate the fibres. Roughly grind the drained shrimp in a mortar and pestle as well.

3. Preheat the oven to 100°C.

4. Heat 125 ml (½ cup) of the peanut oil in a medium, oven-proof saucepan over low-medium heat. Fry the garlic, shallots, red chillies and lemongrass for 10 minutes or until fragrant and softened.

5. Add the shredded scallops, shrimp, ham or prosciutto, salt, sugar, chilli powder, soy sauce and a little of the reserved scallop soaking liquid. Bring to a simmer, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining oil, reduce the heat to very low, then cook for another 10 minutes to allow the oil to infuse.

6. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook, uncovered for 1-2 hours or until the colour intensifies and the sauce is thick, oily and jammy. Transfer to clean jars, then seal and cool.

7. Refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will keep for about 2 months.


Photography by Adam Liaw.

Destination Flavour China with Adam Liaw airs 7.30pm, Wednesday on SBS and then on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.