Love, XO (Paywalled)

This 80s Hong Kong sauce for the goose is definitely worth a gander

It’s been called “the caviar of the East” by Vogue China, and is widely considered one of the most exquisite additives in the world. Almost every Hong Kong eatery worth its salt boasts its own homemade version, with a packaged brand produced by Central’s Lee Kum Kee an international bestseller.

Yet XO sauce, the Cadillac of condiments, remains little known on the Chinese mainland, far less found in any regular restaurant. And even though it was invented only a few years ago in one of the world’s most beloved food capitals, the origins of the sauce remain somewhat of a mystery, with varying chefs laying claim to competing recipes.

“I suspect XO sauce originated in Hong Kong in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which is when I first experienced it,” Ken Hom, the celebrated Cantonese chef and TV presenter, tells TWOC from Thailand. During that period, Hom was one of several pioneering chefs who helped introduce quality Chinese cuisine to mainstream Western audiences. Thanks to his BBC TV series, Hom’s 1987 book East Meets West was practically the bible of British Asian fusion.

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Love, XO (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “High Steaks.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Han Rubo is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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