XO Sauce a la BettyQ


BettyQ is a marketmanila.com “regular” and has been commenting on this blog for the past year or so. She resides in the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. and has worked professionally in restaurant kitchens before. She had mentioned by email that she had a homemade version of X.O. sauce, a scallop and shrimp concoction, heady with flavor, that was originally invented in Hong Kong a couple of decades ago and its popularity in Chinese cooking has grown dramatically. You can now purchase the X.O. sauce in Chinese or Asian groceries and it is usually quite pricey. She very kindly sent Marketman not only the X.O. recipe but the main raw ingredients necessary to cook the dish. She has been most gracious with her recipes on the blog and with her permission, I am posting the recipe here for several readers who have clamored for it… It is delicious.


This recipe (as I made it) yielded far too much X.O. for our household, with roughly 3/4 of a gallon or a little less, and several bottles were sent off to friends and family, while several bottles were stored in the fridge and the freezer for later use. Feel free to cut the recipe in half (or fourths even for a more manageable volume. I will first list the ingredients and recipe as BettyQ wrote it, then discuss some of my observations so that you have an idea where you might want to play with the recipe to make your own personal version…


1 large head of garlic, peeled and pounded in a mortar
3-4 cups of sliced shallots (small red onions here in Manila)
1 and 1/2 pounds dried scallops (photo above) then soaked, draimed, steamed and shredded
3/4 pound dried shrimp or hibe (photo below) then soaked drained and finely minced
1/2 pound chinese ham
1-2 teaspoons of five-spice powder
Lots of achuete powder for color
white pepper
MSG if you use it, otherwise omit it (I don’t use MSG)
chili flakes or chili oil
Sesame oil (optional, but I used it, about 1 tbsp or so)
LOTS of vegetable oil (4-5 cups)


The recipe is mostly “prep” work, and actually very easy to cook. The night before you make the sauce, soak the dried scallops and shrimp in separate bowls covered with warm water. The next morning, drain the scallops and shrimp. Steam the scallops for roughly 20 minutes and let them cool. Pulse the scallops in food processor until just shredded, not a smooth paste. You are aiming for a shredded TEXTURE. Process the shrimp (no steaming necessary) until finely minced, but again, not pureed. Process the ham until finely minced. Process peeled shallots until finely minced texture as well. You do need a food processor for this recipe unless you are a glutton for chopping vigorously…

In a large wok or Le Creuset enameled pot, heat up roughly 1 and 1/2 cups of vegetable oil and when hot, add the smushed garlic and stir until golden brown (not burned), and remove the fried garlic and set it aside. In the garlic flavored oil, add all of the shallots and cook over a medium flame until slightly caramelized, say 10-12 minutes on most stoves. You don’t want to burn the onions, lower you flame if this starts to happen. You can keep adding vegetable oil if necessary, you WILL eventually use all 4-5 cups of the vegetable oil. Add several tablespoons of achuete powder then the shrimp and ham and stir and saute for say 5 minutes. Add the scallops and saute for 3-5 minutes and add the five-spice powder, ground white pepper and taste. Betty didn’t have salt in her recipe, but I added several dashes of salt to taste. Add the fried garlic last, and it is done… You may also add the chilli flakes or oil if you want it spicy.


My version was a lot blonder than most commercial X.O. sauces such as this one. The reason for this is that I didn’t have achuete powder, and onlyhad three tablespoons of whole achuete, so I improvised and made an achuete oil instead. Obviously, there was a lack of achuete so the sauce didn’t look as dark as it probably should have. Also, I suspect the X.O. sauces in hongkong are cooked with dark burgundy dried chillies, which would impart a much redder color. My chili powder, albeit made from authentic chinese chilies, wasn’t hot enough (too old?) and I regret not putting a whole lot more!


Having said that, this was a SUPERB sauce. Chock full of shredded scallops and incredibly flavorful. Betty’s version is heavier on scallops than most and once you have tried this recipe, you should experiment to get the balance of flavors that suits you best. I was so thrilled with the results, I photographed the sauce in a Baccarat jam dish up top… figuring a fancy and incredibly rich sauce or condiment like this deserved the finest crystal… Thank you so much BettyQ for sharing this recipe and for sending the key ingredients as well! Next up, some ideas on how to use the X.O. sauce…


46 Responses

  1. How very nice of Betty Q to share this recipe.
    And MM is always thinking of doing good for his blog fans/readers. Nice place,this MarketManila. Now I’m looking forward to how to use this sauce. I’m thinking fried rice with Tobikko (flying fish roe) on top. Or is that over the top?

  2. Can someone please give a brand name for the 5-spice powder? I can’t find it in Asian Supermarkets here in San Antonio, TX.

  3. Way to go Betty q and MM. You are both champion, real trouper and unselfish. Betty q’s skills and knowledge are beyond the horizon – be at gardening, baking, and cooking! The use of XO sauce is endless like the stars in the sky – a whole galaxy. Great in stir fries, fried rice and dipping sauce with chicken and pork chops. Betty q and MM thank you thank you!

  4. thank you for this recipe.this is a must make for me because i’m running low on my xo sauce.the store i buy it from have since closed so i panicked because i did not stock up on this.thanks betty q and mm for sharing this recipe.

  5. Nayanika from Texas
    McCormick makes 5-spice powder.
    In case you can’t find it there, I have a recipe for 5-spice powder from a spice book: equal parts szechuan pepper, cinnamon or cassia, cloves, fennel seeds and star anise. Ground to a fine powder and store in an air-tight container. (From Choosing and Using spices by Sallie Morris and Lesley Mackley; c1999; Hermes House (publisher); Singapore)

  6. I should be the one THANKING YOU, MM, for taking the time to post it…you have saved me a loooot of painstaking typing which I really don’t like to do….

    Silly Lolo: Fried rice + your topping of Tobiko or Xo +scrambled egg = Maria Clara!!!!

    Oh, by the way, MM …when you take a crack at making Pancit Palabok or Malabon in the months ahead, save the SHRIMP-GARLIC infused oil (used to flavour your noodles) leftover and freeze. Next time you make XO, add it. It elevates the taste to a much higher level…YUMMMY!!!

    For those who have access to dried scallops…don’t be swayed by the “tindera” to purchase those that can cost an arm and a leg. Dried scallops are graded and priced according to the grade. I buy the KINDERGARTEN GRADE!!!! I figured by the time they are reconstituted, and shredded, no one will ever know if what you bought is GRADE 1, 2 or 3!!!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing,MM and Betty Q. It is such a welcome treat having this recipe because store bought XO Sauce is very expensive.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

    Where can I get dried scallops in Seattle? I buy hibe in Vancouver, B.C. because the quality is much better (yes, I’m willing to drive 2-3 hours just to buy hibe). Unfortunately, I visit Vancouver only in the summer, so it’ll be a couple of months before I make it there.

  9. A very big “thank you” to MM and Betty Q for sharing this much loved recipe. Now I can make my own and share it with others,too!

  10. Angela: Only place I know is Chinatown…You have got to have a Chinatown there where they sell bulk stuff…I am not really sure where since each time we go to Seattle, we just go to TODAI!!!! (Yup, like you we would travel 2 to 3 hours as well just to eat at TODAI)…

    Last week-end, I gave a jar of XO to a neighbour and she ended up dragging me to Chinatown to buy the ingredients. I took her to my “sukis” and after haggling got 6 lbs. of what I would call GRADE 3 scallops for KINDERGArTEN GRADE PRICE!!!! If you can wait till then (summer) I can give you a couple of pounds…

  11. so this is the mysterious XO sauce, well mysterious for me since i’ve only encountered it here at MM’s blog ……didn’t even know that scallops are dried !….really love this blog, everyone so helpful:) …..now where do i get XO around here???, must keep my eyes open at asian stores now…….

  12. hi marketman :-) im an avid reader of your blogs. its my first time to leave a comment or more like a question if you will… the XO sauce that u posted from bettyq looks superb and i just want to ask where can i buy dried scallops here in metro manila. thank u and god bless.

  13. CaLeL, I can’t be sure, but I suspect a few of he grocery stores in Binondo or Chinatown might carry these dried scallops and shrimps.

  14. Isn’t it amazing how great minds think alike?
    Fried rice should be the planet’s national dish! I’ll bet both Betty Q and Maria Clara have killer fried rice. Often for me, a good fried rice is a one-pan dinner. And of course it must be done with special attention to detail and due diligence in selecting the toppings.

    For example, Spam and garlic (properly minced and browned) is a holy pairing never to be violated. God help you if you serve fried rice that has clumps of rice in it.
    Veggies should not be “cooked” with the rice – they get wilted and ugly. Serve them in a separate dish to “top” the rice just prior to eating. Details. Think details! One must “do” fried rice – not just cook it!

    I divorced my 5th wife Irene because she couldn’t do fried rice. She always got impatient. I do miss her long, double jointed legs sometimes.

  15. Oh, my goodness Silly Lolo…How can I forget SPAM FRIED RICE!!! I cook this for my boys when my husband is away on his business trips….this one for my “non-seafood eating son” NO.1 and the XO FRIED RICE for my “seafood eating son” NO.2!!!

    But do try this , Silly Lolo paired with …sunny side up egg…topped with THINLY SLICED GREEN ONION and ginger (julienned really thinly)…and then heat up a few tablespoons of canola oil with a drop of sesame oil to SMOKING POINT …a few drops of LIGHT SOY SAUCE over the eggand then pour the HOT OIL over the egg…it is sooo good!!!!!!

  16. made the xo sauce last tuesday, mine came out like shredded adobo, it still taste good. in fact i eat it with steamed rice as ulam . i didn’t soak the hibe and scallops, anyway i still half of the ingredients and will make them again. thank you, MM, BettyQ and MC.

  17. MM and Betty Q: What is the shelf life of this homemade XO sauce? Is it necessary that the same be refrigerated?

  18. Marilyn…It doesn’t last long in our household. I made 12-8 oz. jars last week-end and I have only 2 jars left in the refrigerator!…of course, each time I make it, my siblings can’t wait to get their hands on them…But each time my sister goes back home on her business trips, I make double the amount for her and she freezes them…this is what she always brings home as her pasalubongs to her amigas!!!

    Oh, so sorry Silly Lolo…that last paragraph for you didn’t sound right!!!

  19. I’ve been trying to find XO sauce since I’ve seen this in so many blogs but didn’t have nany luck getting one. Thanks for unselfishly sharing this betty q and MM. This would make a good gifts too! By the way, how long does this sauce keep? If I put it in the freezer will it still be good for a month or two?

  20. thanks betty q and MM for being so sharing and helpful. all your tips are so helpful

  21. There was a period in the eighties and nineties when Hong Kong had the highest per capita consumption of cognac in the world, XO being the highest designation of the readily available brands. In the absence of any other clue, I suspect that’s where they borrowed the name of this mythic sauce. Unless they just arbitrarily lopped off the initial letter of the common kitchen condiment Oxo.

  22. wow, finally, a recipe for XO sauce. and i didn’t think the i ngredients would be this easy to find. thank you, Betty Q and MM!

  23. millet, I know you are a big cook, you MUST try this recipe; just adjust for spiciness, I would have liked mine spicier. Apicio, you are correct, that is where the name comes from, but APPALLING to me, and I am sure not to the folks that did it, they used to brag by putting the XO bottle on the table, pour each other glasses, and ADD 7-up!!! Yikes. Yikes. :) lee, if I were headed to Bacolod in the next week, I could have given you a bottle… bummer. :(

  24. thi is a definite MUST TRY. . . XO sauce is good with seafood. .. just blanch your seafood and stir fry with XO sauce and even fried french beans stir fried in XO sauce. . . yum yum yum. . .

  25. Thank you Betty Q and MM. I am so glad that both of you belong to the kind of people who believe that recipes are made for sharing. Bless you!

  26. Betty Q-

    Thank you for the offer! I’d be interested to meet your sukis, too ;)

    I’ll be in Vancouver in August. Hopefully, we’ll get to meet then.

    (Seriously, you like Todai?!?! Do you go to the Redmond or downtown Seattle location?)

  27. Thanks for linking back to my post on XO sauce. This home-made version has a lovely natural colour. My uncle’s home-made one wasn’t quite as dark as the shop-bought versions, but this one is the lightest I’ve ever seen. Interesting!

    Helen Yuet Ling

  28. XO is a sauce that can elevate even the most humblest of dishes- try it on lucky me instant pancit canton or any stir fried noodle dish for that matter! …then forget your carb intake for that day because you will be eating the noodles in vats! Must try this recipe!

  29. Hello Mr. MarketMan

    Your site is fantastic!! I discovered it recently when i did a search on some obscure filipino fruit. I’ve gone through most of your archives the past few evenings and learned so much about our native fruits and vegetables. Ube hanging from a tree. Who knew! Makes me homesick when i think about all these ingredients I will never find in the Metro NYC area.

    Ms. BettyQ,

    So glad you posted the recipe for this sauce. I plan to try it especially after salivating over the picture of the XO fried rice posted by Mr. MM. Just a few questions:
    a. how long does the sauce keep and what container is best to use?
    b. what kind of vegetable oil do you use?


  30. it seems that this XO sauce is really good. i’m an aspiring cook and i’m an active lurker, just reading the good things in this blog. i have almost omitted pork from my diet and i wonder if the XO sauce would taste different without ham? ano kaya?

  31. Hello Foodforthought: In our household, the Xo sauce doesn’t last long …the batch I made on on May 18 is gone. I made 12 -8 oz. jars. Since it’s finished, I will make another one in a few days and this time, I will try to keep one bottle in the fridge…untouched and see how long it will keep. I use glass bottles to store it since the plastic containers somehow retain the smell of the garlic and shallots guisado…so no matter how well I soak it and soap it,etc. the smell is still retained for quite a while. If you want to keeep it for a few months, you can keep it frozen. I use canola oil but corn oil, sunflower oil would work as well. Do you have a vacuum sealer. If you do, vacuum pack small packages like 8 oz. size and freeze…

  32. This is seriously addicting!!! So incredibly good it really leaves you wondering, “what is in that sauce???”, because you can’t for the life of you remember the last time you ate the same thing for 3 meals straight and still wanted moremoreMORE!

    To Betty Q: THANK YOU for being so generous with your recipe…bless you! Really!!!

  33. hello guys where in manila can i find those dried scallops?? i want to make and taste bettyq XO sauce

  34. From the BOTTOM OF MY HEART, you are all WELCOME!!!!!! I am NOT RICH like MM, SISTER, MARIA CLARA, SILLY LOLO AND A WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF YOU OUT THERE….but I feel rich in my own little way that I was able to share something with you guys and girls from my humble little abode!!!!!

  35. I have to be honest with your guys, I’ve never heard of X.O Sauce before(sorry po) and it’s not like i don’t frequent the chinese/asian markets before or chinese restos, i guess we’re not ordering the right dish that goes well with this X.O Sauce. With that said, the way MM described Betty q’s X.O sauce intrigued me that I decided to try this myself, we love cholesterol-infused recipes, the more fat the better, right? hehehe. biG thanks to you both MM and betty q. Salamat po!

  36. Hi, I am so dying to try the xo sauce! It looks so sinfully good, but where can I buy dried scallops? Thank you!

  37. Hi MM and bettyq! Thanks for unselfishly posting this recipe. My sister tried it and it turned out pretty good. I agree with the rest of the commenters here that it is addicting coz IT IS ADDICTING! The moment you put it in your mouth, the aroma of food goes to your nose from the inside and there you can distinguish the subtleties of the flavor. Because if you smell it as it is, the aroma is different from the outside as opposed to smelling it from the inside. Ang gulo ko ‘no? Basta this is so good.

    I do have one concern though: Is XO high in cholesterol? I am wondering what would make it high in cholesterol since you only use a little bit of ham? Are scallops high in cholesterol?

  38. papichulo168, I guess it is relatively high in fat, due to the several cups of vegetable oil, but not necessarily cholesterol.

  39. i wonder , since around here i dont think i could find chinese ham, can i use regular ham or bacon as the replacements.

  40. foodaddict, a country ham, or saltier drier ham might work. Regular store bought ham might be a bit bland. I don’t think bacon is a good option.

  41. thanks, i would look for something in the supermarket here. i would soak the scallops and dried shrimps tonight then do the work tomorrow. see what it leads me to..:D



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