Pipis and Vermicelli with Homemade XO Sauce
Prep time: 30min
250g Chang’s Rice Noodle Vermicelli
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 – 2 tablespoons of homemade XO sauce (see above)
1 tablespoon Chang’s Oyster Sauce
1 teaspoon Chang’s Sesame Oil (optional)
1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with ½ cup cold water
Cook time: 1hr 25min
160g dried scallops
200g dried shrimp
6 shallots (or 2 onions)
1 garlic bulb, peeled
50g dried chilli
5 birds eye chillis
3 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable oil
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a food processor, roughly chop the dried shrimp and set aside.
Then blend the garlic and shallots and set aside, followed by the chillies, salt and proscuitto.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To serve, pour the pipis and sauce over the fried vermicelli and garnish with sliced spring onion.
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