Why is XO sauce called ‘XO’ even though it has no cognac?

A wonderful sauce that makes everything taste better.

| Kayla Wong | Sponsored | January 21, 2021, 05:00 PM

XO sauce is a seafood seasoning known for its umami taste and a spicy kick.

A relative newcomer to the condiment stage, it originated in Hong Kong in the 1980s, and became widely popular in the 1990s.

Commonly used in the southern part of China, its taste was reportedly praised by French chefs for its non-greasy feel, even though it contains a lot of oil.

Image via Asian Inspirations

But unlike other Chinese sauces, its creator, widely said to be a chef from the posh Chinese restaurant at The Peninsula Hong Kong hotel, used English letters when naming the sauce.

So why call it “XO” sauce when it does not contain any XO cognac?

As it turns out, the XO (Extra Old) cognac was a popular liquor in Hong Kong at that time, and the term “XO” suggested a certain luxurious quality and prestige.

So, naming the sauce “XO” after the likes of top selling cognacs such as Hennessy XO and Remy Martin XO suggests that it is a high quality sauce.

And it does use fine ingredients, such as dried scallops, premium dried shrimps, dried chilli peppers, shallots, shrimp roe and brown sugar.

That’s why the XO sauce is often packaged as a high-end condiment on the shelves, and it also commands a higher price than other common sauces.

A quick online search shows that it can cost anywhere from $15 to a whopping $108 in Singapore.

Image via Google

That’s a lot to unpack in a single bottle.

So how do you use XO sauce?

It is often used in cooking to enhance the flavour. It is also a great condiment if you’re into savoury food that’s full of flavours. Simply add a dollop to whatever you’re having to dress it up.

Image via Pinterest

It is versatile and goes well with Western food like pasta too, not just ordinary stir fry.

Image via Delishar

Some, however, say the easiest and best way to have it is to pair it with some plain rice or noodles.

Image via The Woks of Life

This is because the taste of the condiment itself already packs a punch, and the flavours can be better appreciated if it goes with something relatively plain.

A great way to try it is the XO Sauce Bee Tai Mak with Scallops at WOK HEY.

Image via WOK HEY

Part of its CNY seasonal special menu, the dish includes a killer combination of a generous amount of umami-laden XO sauce mixed with chewy bee tai mak (rice flour noodles), served with a side of seared Australian wild-caught scallops.

A perfect dish to savour the addictive taste of XO Sauce.

Follow WOK HEY’s Instagram account for more info about their special CNY menu and find them near you at:

  • Hougang Mall
  • The Clementi Mall
  • IMM
  • Bugis Junction
  • Paya Lebar Square
  • Bukit Panjang Plaza
  • Causeway Point
  • Republic Plaza
  • Lot One
  • Junction 8
  • AMK Hub
  • White Sands
  • Chinatown Point
  • City Square Mall
  • Compass One
  • ARC
  • Funan
  • VivoCity
  • Tiong Bahru Plaza
  • Plaza Singapura
  • [email protected]
  • Raffles City
  • Bedok Mall
  • Northpoint City
  • Tampines Food Co
  • Waterway Point
  • NEX

This sponsored piece by WOK HEY makes the writer want to try some XO sauce straight from the jar.

Top image adapted via Pinterest & WOK HEY