XO sauce is the Rolls-Royce of Cantonese cooking. Its exact origins are still debated, but the one thing most people agree on is that it came out of the Hong Kong restaurant scene in the 60s, as chefs competed to make the most luxurious sauce possible. The name XO comes from “extra-old”-graded aged cognac, a symbol of status and luxury. My vegan version also goes in pursuit of luxury, using fine, meaty, rich shiitake mushrooms and a good slug of actual cognac as a hat-tip to the name.
Mushroom XO sauce with noodles
You will end up with leftover sauce, and I encourage you to slather it liberally over everything. The leftovers can also be kept in the fridge for up to a week. If you’re having a slightly thriftier month, brandy (instead of cognac) and chestnut mushrooms (instead of shiitake) are good substitutes.
You will need a food processor for this dish.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
300g shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tsp chilli flakes
250g fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 sheet nori plus 1 for decoration, shredded
125ml rapeseed oil
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1½ tsp dark brown sugar
3 tbsp cognac or brandy
1½ tsp Chinese five spice
½ tsp salt
200g noodles, wide flat wheat or normal wholewheat
Blitz the shallots in a food processor, scrape out in a bowl and set aside. Put the garlic, chilli flakes, shiitake mushrooms and a sheet of nori into the processor, blitz, then set aside until needed.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallots look like soft caramel.
Add the mushroom mixture, cook for 10 minutes, then add the soy sauce, sugar, brandy, spice and salt. Cook for a further three minutes, then take off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, rinse in cold water, then put them in a big bowl with half the XO sauce (save the rest for another day), and mix. Portion into bowls and sprinkle the remaining sheet of nori over the top.
Meera Sodha’s new book, East: 120 Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing, is out now (Penguin, £20). To order a copy for the special price of £15, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846.