Pipis in XO sauce

Pipis in XO sauce

Man Food
Billy Law

XO sauce is a ridiculously addictive chilli sauce made using expensive ingredients like scallops and pancetta. When it was first created in Hong Kong in the ’80s, this legendary sauce was considered as prestigious as French XO cognac, hence the name. The store-bought stuff doesn’t have anything on this homemade recipe — just watch out though, you will get hooked.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cm knob ginger, peeled and julienned
1 tablespoon salted black beans, roughly chopped
80ml xo sauce, (from recipe below)
1kg pipis or clams, (see note)
60ml shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
3 spring onions, cut into 5 cm lengths
rice, steamed, to serve

XO sauce

Quantity Ingredient
80g dried shrimps
50g dried scallops
10g dried red chillies, seeded
2 long red chillies, seeded
500ml oil, plus extra
1 garlic bulb, cloves finely chopped
100g pancetta or prosciutto, finely shredded
50g french shallots, finely chopped
salt, to taste
extra oil, to seal


  1. To make the XO sauce, put the dried shrimp and scallops in a bowl and fill with enough water to cover by about 2 cm. Cover with plastic wrap and soak overnight in the refrigerator until they are rehydrated and plump. Drain on paper towel. Put the shrimp and scallops in a food processor, pulse a few times until roughly chopped, they should still have a bit of texture and not be mushy. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, soak the dried chilli in hot water for 30 minutes to soften, then drain. Put rehydrated chilli and fresh chilli in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped; you should still be able to see largish specks of chilli. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat half the oil in a wok over medium–high heat, fry the scallops and shrimp for 2–3 minutes or until crisp. Add the chilli mixture and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the remaining oil, the garlic, pancetta and shallots, reduce the heat to medium–low, keep frying for another 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fragrant and dark brown in colour with a layer of chilli oil on top. Season with salt, to taste.
  4. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Pour the XO sauce into a sterilised jar and pour extra oil over to keep its freshness. This recipe will yield about 300 ml of XO sauce.
  5. To cook the pipis, heat the peanut oil in a wok over a high heat until smoking hot. Add the garlic, ginger and black beans and stir-fry for 15–20 seconds until fragrant. Add the XO sauce and pipis, stir to let the sauce and pipis get to know each other. Add the rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and give it a quick stir. Reduce the heat to medium and put the lid on, let it steam for 5–10 minutes or until most of the pipis open up.
  6. Turn the heat off, add the chilli and spring onion, then toss well to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with coriander. Serve with steamed rice.


  • To clean pipis, put in a large pot filled with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and stir until dissolved. Soak for 2–3 hours — the pipis will start to flush out the sand from their digestive systems. Then drain and rinse with cold water.
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