Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade XO Sauce

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XO Sauce is considered the emperor of all sauces.  Many professional chefs have their own versions of this sauce and the recipe is usually guarded in secrecy.  A small teaspoon of this sauce can take any stir-fry dish and transform it!  This is a sauce that is not very well known of in the supermarket.  I think that this is because XO sauce is typically very expensive.  It is not uncommon for a small jar to sell for upwards of $30.

This recipe of mine will allow you to make our own for a fraction of the cost!  Note that traditionally XO sauce is typically also made with dried chili peppers to provide a spicy kick.  However, my family prefers a non-spicy version which we have affectionally called OX sauce.  Feel free to add dried chili peppers to the recipe if desired.

To make my XO Sauce you will need:
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4-5 small onions (or 1 large onion), finely diced
  • 90g medium-sized dried prawns
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 6 pieces of dried scallops, shredded
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce

The steps to prepare Homemade XO Sauce:

  1. In a food processor separately process the dried scallops, dried prawns, and diced onions.  The goal isn't to turn the ingredients to a fine powder, it's just to make them a little finer.
  2. Heat up small pot on high heat and put in the shredded scallops.  We are bringing out the flavour of the scallops.  Do so for about another 3 minutes and then add in the shredded prawns.
  3. Keep stirring the dry mixture around to prevent burning.  Once you can start to smell the full flavour of the scallops and the prawns, you may add in the 2 cups of oil to the pot.  You may need to add a little more oil because the goal is to just have enough oil to reach the top of the mixture.  Gently stir and bring to a boil.
  4. Continue stirring and now add in the garlic and onions (If using dried chili now is the time to add them).  Lower the temperature to medium and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.  The mixture should be constantly bubbling but NOT burning.  Add in the dark soy now as well as a pinch of salt towards the end of the 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat after the 15 minutes and transfer the contents to a glass bowl.  Allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a mason jar.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Asian Style Lettuce Wraps

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Lettuce wraps are very popular at Asian restaurants.  Perhaps you may have seen on the menus Peking Duck serve in two ways.  The first presentation is crispy duck skin wrapped in a soft tortilla-like shell.  The meat of the duck is then minced and stir-fried with vegetables and is wrapped with lettuce leaves for the second presentation.  Lettuce wraps can make both a great appetizer and a great main dish, and any dishes that you assemble yourself makes a meal that much more fun!

The cooking time for this dish is minimal, however the most time consuming aspect is the chopping of all the ingredients.  This recipe can be easily adapted to use other meats and vegetables to reduce the chopping time  The important aspect of making lettuce wraps is that it's best to use ingredients with varying colours, flavours, and textures to make the dish appealing to the visual and taste palate.

I've chosen to use for the stir-fry portion of the lettuce wraps:
  • Carrots, finely chopped
  • Pea pods, chopped (may substitute with celery)
  • Shallots, finely chopped
  • Water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • Quail meat grounded or finely chopped
  • Oyster meat finely chopped
Other ingredients you will need are:
  • Hoisin Sauce or Oyster Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Vermicelli noodles (optional)
  • 1 head of Iceberg lettuce or Romaine lettuce leaves

To prepare the lettuce wraps:
  • Lightly oil a wok on high heat.  Add each of the ingredients of the stir fry in one by one.  I start with the shallots, then water chestnuts, followed by the carrots.  After 2 minutes or so, add in the meats.  Normally I would put in the meat first when stir-frying but in this case the quail meat and oysters cook quite quickly.  I want to bring out the flavours of the water chestnuts and carrots, which is why they went in first.
  • Stir Frying
  • Stir fry until everything is fully cooked.  Add in oyster sauce and soy sauce to taste, and stir to mix the sauce in evenly.  Turn off the heat and add the pea pods and stir one last time.

To Serve:
  • I chose to have the stir fry resting on a bed of fried vermicelli noodles.  To fry vermicelli noodles simply break the sticks of vermicelli into short 1 to 2 inch segments.
  • Heat up a small pot of oil and once it's boiling, add the vermicelli noodles to the oil.  The vermicelli cooks extremely quickly and if it turns white and expands, it is ready.
  • Remove the vermicelli noodles from the oil, and place the stir-fry over it
  • Spoon a small amount of the stir-fry into a leaf of lettuce.  Roll it up and enjoy!  If you have guests over then have your guests wrap their own Lettuce Wraps! Be sure to have extra hoisin sauce and hot sauce on the side in case your guests may want to add additional flavour to the wraps.