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Monday, July 25, 2011

XO Fish - XOXOXO...lent

It could be because I am a Piscean in astrological terms or it could be because I just like the taste of it – Fish…or Pesci, Pescados, Poisson, Maach or Ikan…just to name a few ways to say it.  Now while I favour fish cooked whole as my first choice, I won’t say no to cutlets of bigger fish or even boneless fillets as long as they are cooked with care not to diminish the natural flavour of the fish and take over the dish.  This recipe came from a need to cook with Chinese XO Sauce just because I liked way it sounded…XO Sauce…say it with me…XOXOXO...lent (Bad Black Eyes Peas reference there…for those of you paying attention).  In case you didn’t know the XO does not stand for hugs and kisses as used affectionately in greeting cards and text messages.  Instead it stands for Extra Old and is actually used in identifying fine cognac liquor in Hong Kong and branding a product with an XO meant prestige and luxury.  This has been translated to XO Sauce too and you will regularly see the bottles packaged like fine liquor. 
My brand of choice is the Lin Lin brand that has a Panda as its brand mascot.  Unfortunately, it does not come in a glossy package but a rather humble bottle with a basic label.  Nevertheless,  I have used Lin Lin quite often and it is a wonderful ingredient.  There are plenty of other XO sauce brands out there, but my preference is based on its full flavoured taste and balance.  I have found some XO sauces that work better as a dipping sauce for side of your plate and these are a little too well rounded to cook with as they do not impart any further flavour but are still worthy if all else fails.         
Now it does not take much to get this dish up to the table and have your diners thinking they were at an eatery in downtown Hong Kong – minus the hustle and bustle...and expensive airfare.
INGREDIENTS – to serve 4
600g x White Fish Fillets (the fresher the better)
1tsp x Chinese Five Spice Powder
Sichuan Pepper & Salt (optional)
½ cup x Cornflour
Oil for deep frying
1 small bunch Spring Onions, sliced finely
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
4Tbsp x XO Sauce
1Tbsp x Sambal Olek (Chilli Paste)
2Tbsp Shao Xing Wine
¼ - ½ cup Water
Cut the fish fillets into about 2 cm cubes and dust them with the Chinese five spice powder.
Put the cornflour into a clean plastic bag and season with the pepper and salt
Place enough oil in a deep pan and fry the fish in batches for 4 minutes 
The fish surface should be crispy, remove from the oil and drain well on paper towel
In a wok heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and stir fry half the spring onions and the garlic for a minute
Add the XO Sauce and the sambal olek and stir continuously so that it does not catch for another minute
Pour in the Shao Xing Wine and let it cook out for a few seconds
Add ¼ cup of water and stir through to thin out the sauce
Taste the sauce and add more XO or Chilli if desired, add more water if required
Return the fish to the wok folding gently so that the fish does not break
When the fish is reheated through garnish with the remaining spring onions and remove to a serving plate
XO Fish

XO Pork
XO Chicken
The variations on this dish are plenty, once you have your basic XO flavour foundation:
Increase the dish with the addition of steamed vegatables like beans, snow peas, broccoli, asparagus.  Add these in just after the fish as they do not need any further cooking.
Replace the Fish with 500g peeled raw prawns
Replace fish with boneless chicken thigh fillets and fry for 6-7 minutes
Stir through cooked noodles for an saucy XO Noodle Box style dish 

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