Back in the day, before the recreational pipi harvesting ban across NSW was implemented, I recall the excitement of our annual roadtrip down the coast to Seven Mile Beach to gather pipis. With a bucket and shovel, we crouched over the shoreline and at the sight of small air pockets in the sand, we dug frantically against the clock of the waves. As the waves washed over the sand holes, we rhythmically spent hours at end on the beach, until our legs could crouch no more.

Once home, my parents would submerge the pipis in water overnight to purge them of sand, and the following evening, my siblings and I would fight over the credit for the plumpest pipis. It was always a great joy to hand-harvest our own pipis in the wild, and witness the magical transformation into a sumptuous home-cooked dish. Sometimes they were wok-tossed with garlic, chilli and Thai basil, but my ultimate pipi dish, would have to be pipis in XO sauce, with a mandatory serve of fried vermicelli noodles to soak up the delicious XO sauce gravy.

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With Chinese New Year around the corner, I decided to make my very own homemade XO sauce this year.

Chinese New Year eve dinners throughout my childhood were always a labour of love. My parents would spend days preparing an extravagant dinner table of auspicious Chinese dishes believed to bring good luck and prosperity throughout the new year. Chinese New Year is an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, to express gratitude to parents and elders; it’s a time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. So in the style of #LamFamilyEats, my XO sauce is nothing like the grainy versions you’d see on the supermarket shelves or in restaurants. This XO sauce is truly the emperor of all sauces, with chunky bites of dried scallop, and a smoky, decadent, complex flavour; it has been perfectly crafted to spoil dearest family and friends.

XO sauce ingredients, dried scallops, dried shrimp, fresh and dried chillis, shallots

For those unfamiliar with XO sauce, it is a spicy seafood sauce that originated from Hong Kong. Named after XO Cognac for its prestigious and luxurious qualities, the sauce is made from a marvelous blend of dried seafood. Chefs at top Chinese restaurants keep their XO sauce recipe closely guarded. The sauce is extremely versatile and can be used as a dipping sauce, tossed through stir-fries, or as a condiment topping on noodles, steamed meats, vegetables or dumplings.

Pipis with Vermicelli in homemade XO sauce

The beauty of being a blogger for almost 10 years is being able to click back to previous Chinese New Year celebrations: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2011 part 2, 2013, 2014. My family has grown significantly in the last five years with three weddings (including mine ) so we’ve ditched cooking for fancy festive banquet dinners. However, with my in-laws and the extended family, we’ll be doing a Chinese New Year Eve potluck dinner, and this is what I’ll be serving —

Homemade XO Sauce Recipe + Pipis and Vermicelli in XO Sauce
Serves 4
Print
2516 calories
72 g
135 g
239 g
27 g
19 g
511 g
3221 g
9 g
2 g
210 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
511g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2516
Calories from Fat 2118
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 239g
368%
Saturated Fat 19g
94%
Trans Fat 2g
Polyunsaturated Fat 42g
Monounsaturated Fat 168g
Cholesterol 135mg
45%
Sodium 3221mg
134%
Total Carbohydrates 72g
24%
Dietary Fiber 6g
25%
Sugars 9g
Protein 27g
Vitamin A
85%
Vitamin C
149%
Calcium
10%
Iron
16%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. XO sauce
  2. 160g dried scallops
  3. 200g dried shrimp
  4. 100g proscuitto
  5. 6 shallots (or 2 onions)
  6. 1 garlic bulb, peeled
  7. 50g dried chilli
  8. 5 birds eye chillis
  9. 3 teaspoon salt
  10. 4 cups vegetable oil
  11. Pipis stir fry
  12. 250g Chang's Rice Noodle Vermicelli
  13. 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  14. 1kg pipis
  15. 1 - 2 tablespoons of homemade XO sauce (see above)
  16. 1 tablespoon Chang's Oyster Sauce
  17. 1 teaspoon Chang's Sesame Oil (optional)
  18. 1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with ½ cup cold water
  19. Garnish
  20. Spring onion
Instructions
  1. In separate bowls, soak the dried scallops and dried shrimp in boiling water for at least one hour. Drain and allow to cool, then roughly shred the scallops with your fingers and set aside.
  2. In a food processor, roughly chop the dried shrimp and set aside.
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  4. Then blend the garlic and shallots and set aside, followed by the chillies, salt and proscuitto.
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  7. Heat the oil in a pan and add all the chopped ingredients. Simmer on a low heat for 20 - 40 minutes until the sauce darkens and becomes aromatic.
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  9. Transfer to sterilised jars, ensuring there is enough oil to cover the top. This recipe makes 1.35kg of sauce, about 4 medium sized jars. Keep refrigerated for several months.
  10. Homemade XO sauce recipe
  11. To prepare the pipis in XO sauce with vermicelli, firstly check with the fishmonger that the pipis have been cleaned as there's nothing worse that biting into sandy grit.
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  13. Chang's Rice Noodle Vermicelli cooks in just two minutes in noodle soups, or ten minutes in salads and stir-fries. Simply place the required noodle portions in a large bowl, cover with boiling water and let stand for ten minutes. Strain, and transfer to a frying pan or wok with half the peanut oil, cook for 2 - 5 minutes on each side until crisp. Place the fried vermicelli on the serving plate.
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  15. In the same pan, heat up the remaining peanut oil, and add the pipis, XO sauce and oyster sauce. Stir for 2 - 3 minutes until the pipis open. Make a slurry with the cornflour and water and whisk into the simmering pan to thicken the liquid into a gravy.
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  17. To serve, pour the pipis and sauce over the fried vermicelli and garnish with sliced spring onion.
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beta
calories
2516
fat
239g
protein
27g
carbs
72g
more
I Ate My Way Through http://www.iatemywaythrough.com/
While it might be costly to add as much dried scallops as I have, remember that a little goes a long way with XO sauce. Just a spoonful can elevate a few ordinary ingredients into an exquisite creation. You’ll find that the bold complex flavours are a delightful reward for very little effort if you have a food processor handy!

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I’m particularly fond of vermicelli for weeknight dinners because of its versatility and speedy preparation time. But with the addition of pipis and my chunky homemade XO sauce, this really becomes a dish that impresses!

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With the XO sauce at hand, earlier this week, I was also able to whip up dinner in five minutes. I boiled a pack of Chang’s Egg Noodles, made with egg whites only (with added protein) for four minutes, strained it and tossed through a tablespoon of the homemade XO sauce. This was served with some blanched green beans and was insanely tasty.

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As you can see, we’ve become quite the baller couple, adding this decadent XO sauce to anything and everything. I simply can’t wait to gift these little jars of gold to the family.

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This blog post was made possible thanks to our bronze sponsor, Chang’s, Australia’s much-loved family-owned Asian food brand. Chang’s has a huge range of quality Asian noodles and sauces, including more than 30 gluten free options, available from all major supermarkets. For more information on Chang’s products, visit www.changs.com

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.
  • Delicious! Just had a craving for prawns in XO sauce so will give this a go this weekend!