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Cook this: Traditional XO sauce from Red Hot Kitchen

Cook this: Traditional XO sauce from Red Hot Kitchen
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Our cookbook of the week is Red Hot Kitchen by Brooklyn-based writer and photographer Diana Kuan . Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with its author.

XO sauce is an instant flavour booster. The Hong Kong concoction has a relatively brief history – chefs created it in the 1980s – and depending on the maker, its flavour and texture varies widely.

“Even in Hong Kong nowadays, depending on where you go the XO sauce is always different. Some restaurants will make it not spicy at all to cater to patrons who have eaten Cantonese food their entire lives and don’t like spicy food, and then other restaurants will make it very spicy,” says Diana Kuan. “Some restaurants will make it very thin and other ones will make it more like a chunky paste. It’s really interesting how differently everyone does it.”

A mixture of dried seafood, chili peppers and bacon (in the territory, dry-cured Jinhua ham would likely be used), you’ll need a steamer, food processor, and wok or skillet. Making it, Kuan adds, is a labour of love, which is why she designed the yield to be more plentiful than the eight other chili sauces in Red Hot Kitchen. (She also includes a vegan version in the book.)

“It’s a little bit more difficult than some of the other sauces in the book but you just make a ton at once,” she says. “The flavours are just amazing.”

In Red Hot Kitchen, Diana Kuan offers an education in Asian chili sauces including Indonesian sambal, Japanese yuzu kosho and Hong Kong’s XO sauce. Avery
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