Monthly Archive for March, 2007

XO Sauce


Analysis of XO Sauce and its syngergistic properties

The Uncanny Canadian

Abstract: XO Sauce is an intriguing and complex condiment, whose efficacy in deliciousness is uncharacterized at Delicious or Disgusting. We assayed XO sauce on Trader Joe’s shrimp gyoza, and found that whereas the sauce on its own was too fishy and tentacly, in combination with gingery soy marinade, it enhanced the pre-existing flavours of both the marinade and gyoza and made the meal spectacularly delicious. Further analysis should reveal the optimal utility of XO sauce.

Introduction: XO Sauce was first brought to the attention of Three Bulls! in a comment written by Res Publica about Asian sauces. We were intrigued. Given that: a) condiments are delicious, b) Asian food is delicious, and c) we write about delicious foods, we attempted to define the deliciousness of XO factor through systematic empirical observation. XO sauce can be obtained from a variety of manufacturers and rather than a single concoction, is actually a collection of high-end seafood-based hot sauces. The Lee Jum Kee variety contains the following seafood: dried shrimp, dried scallop, shrimp roe, oyster extractives, and other uncharacterized crustacean products in combination with soybean oil, ,chili, pepper, water, shallot, chili pepper powder, dried garlic, sugar, salt, and other flavourings. As such, it is both complex and poorly defined.
Materials and Methods: Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp gyoza, Trader Joe’s ginger soy marinade, and Trader Joe’s 100% Canola oil were purchased from Trader Joe’s. Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce, Extra Hot, was purchased at Super 88. Preparation of shrimp gyoza was performed according to the manufacturer’s directions for pan frying on a GE stove using a standard teflon-coated skillet. All tastings were performed in duplicate using matched gyoza.
Results: In order to test the deliciousness of XO sauce and other condiments of interest, we first set up an assay based on the consumption of shrimp gyoza. Gyoza were pan fried and sampled using a base sauce, find to be an excellent dipping sauce for gyoza, Trader Joe’s Ginger Soy Marinade (see Materials and Methods). We used the marinade as a control both to normalize the palette and to look for possible interactions. Importantly, the ginger goy marinade was not spicy and therefore did not attenuate possible spice response. Shrimp gyoza eaten with the marinade were given a normalized score of 8/10 (Table 1).

Next, we ate gyoza with XO sauce directly applied. Since the XO sauce contains both supernatant (oil) and precipitate (seafood) compartments, we were careful to ensure that both compartments were assayed separately and then combined in different bites of the gyoza.  Overall, we were disappointed with net effect of XO sauce on the gyoza.  In the absence of a suitable carrier, the seafood component of the precipitate had a noticable and crustacean texture and overall too strong a seafood taste, most notably that of dried shrimp.  Even though the supernatant contained chili and garlic, these flavours did not give a satisfactory counterpoint to the seafood.  The average score of XO sauce alone was 6/10 (Table 1).

Finally, we assayed for synergistic effects by mixing XO sauce with the ginger soy marinade in an approximate 1:5 ratio.  Consumption of the marinade/XO mixture had a delightful and delicious result.  We found the XO sauce, when appropriately diluted in ginger soy marinade imparted a layer of complexity to the gyoza that made each bite an adventure in flavour.  The strong seafood presence was gone, and instead, the filling of the gyoza appeared more interesting and exotic than with either sauce on its own.  Furthermore, the slight spiciness of the XO sauce increased the boldness of the marinade and brought a very slight tingle to the tongue.  The overall score of ginger soy marinade/XO was 9.25/10 (Table 1).

Table 1:  Gyoza scores

Trade Joe’s Ginger Soy Marinade alone:  8/10

XO Sauce alone:  6/10

Ginger Soy Marinade:XO Sauce (5:1):  9.25/10

Discussion:  XO sauce, though incredibly interesting and diverse on its own, may not be suitable as a condiment on its own.  Although widely used in such dishes as chili fried rice and a number of dim sum preparations, XO sauce deserves further investigational analysis in a variety of condiment combinations.  In particular, blander foods such as tofu or noodles might serve to gain even more from inclusion of XO sauce than gyoza, which are very delicious, even in the absence of any dipping sauce.  It is important that XO sauce be combined with something containing sufficient viscosity to effectively combine the supernatant and precipitate.

References:  Wikipedia

Acknowledgements:  UC would like to thank Pinko Punko for the generous gift of XO Sauce and for the idea of testing condiments on gyoza.  This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Condimental Research (to UC).

The authors declare no competing financial interests


This Korean condiment, featuring hot chili fermented soybean paste and regular fermented soybean paste and other seasonings like some sugar and some rice wine is NOT like CIA-funded taste bud illicit drugs sold to funnel money to terrorists so they can conquer your addicted mouth in the name of freedom. It is not LIKE that, because it IS that. I have had this with Korean BBQ before, but couldn’t find it at the store. Little did I know that it comes in TUBS in its own AISLE. It even has a warning label on the back:

“Do not feed to Res Publica, he will be unable to stop, and his head will pop off from mouthly ecstacy.”