May 11, 2021 • 30M

XO Soused - XO Sauce and some thoughts on Hong Kong culinary identity

Andrew Wong and Mukta Das
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A fortnightly chat about techniques and dishes from a professional Chinese kitchen, their history and their cultural setting
Episode details

XO Sauce - a combination of dried seafood, ham, chillies and other seasonings in a stock - has grown to be a Hong Kong condiment par excellence. How is this condiment now used in the Chinese kitchens, and what ingredients does it go well with during the cooking process? What does the XO in the name signify, and what are the origin stories surrounding the sauce, and how does it play up the distinctions and disjunctures in Hong Kong society?

In this edition we revisit and do a deep-dive into our ‘sort-of’ namesake. How many ways do you enjoy XO sauce? Do you add it as a savoury topping to comforting congee, to spread it like jam on wagyu beef? Are there hard and fast rules defining how XO sauce is created? And, now that East Asian dried scallops are no longer available in the UK, how has Andrew adapted these rules for making a London-style XO sauce?

If you’d like to learn more about Hong Kong cuisine in the 1970s and 1980s: Cheung, S, C. H., 2012, ‘Food and Cuisine in a changing society' in D. Wu and S. C. H. Cheung (eds) Globalization of Chinese Food, Routledge, pp. 120-132.

A shot of a pavement in Macau where abalone are drying on large round wicker baskets
A shot from Mukta’s fieldwork research in Macau which shows seafood - in this case - abalone - still being sun/air-dried on the pavements outside in the March sun. The humidity is low at this point of the year, which makes it an excellent time in the year to prepare dry sea food. Seafood drying on pavements is not such a common site in neighbouring Hong Kong.

Intro and outro music: 遊子 [wanderer] by

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