Recipe Sleuth: Zengo’s XO Edamame

The XO edamame appetizer at Latin/Asian fusion restaurant Zengo has a cult-like following. The name is a play on X.O. grade Cognac, the oldest and highest grade. According to chef de cuisine Graham Bartlett, the rich, coarsely textured sauce is meant to be something “VIP or special.” When hunting for ingredients, keep in mind that the dried shrimp and scallops may be expensive and difficult to find. Look to Asian grocery stores or the Florida Avenue Market (Fourth St. and Florida Ave., NW), where Bartlett has spotted them. The sauce is best made in large quantities and used as a condiment. (The restaurant makes four gallons at a time—it lasts a month.) In addition to serving the sauce with edamame, Bartlett suggests tossing it with noodles or putting it on top of baked fish or scrambled eggs. “It’s a great snack,” he says, “And it’ll last forever.”

XO Edamame

Makes 4 to 6 cups of sauce and 1 pound of edamame

1 quart canola oil
1¼ cups small-diced prosciutto
1 cup dried scallops, soaked overnight in cold water, then strained and shredded
1 cup dried shrimp, very finely chopped in a food processor
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon small-chopped chile de arbol (red chile flakes may be substituted)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 pound edamame
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
Pinch sugar
Schimi togarashi (a Japanese spice blend) to taste

Place about 2⁄3 of the canola oil in a large saucepan and heat. Add the prosciutto and begin to fry it in batches. Add only as much as the pan can handle because it’ll produce a lot of steam and will splatter. Fry about 10 minutes until crispy, stirring continuously. Leave the oil over the heat and strain the prosciutto with a slotted spoon into a ceramic or metal container.

Fry the scallops in batches, if necessary, followed by the shrimp (expect that the shrimp will produce a bubbly foam). Allow all of the ingredients to fry until golden (about 15 minutes for the shrimp and scallops). As each ingredient is done frying, add it to the same container holding the prosciutto. Add the remaining canola oil to the pan if needed.

Add the garlic and shallots and fry slowly until they’re well caramelized. When they’re golden brown, add the sugar and chile, stirring constantly. Mix with the other ingredients in the same bowl and add the sesame oil and black pepper. Be sure you’ve covered the entire mixture with the same oil you’ve used throughout the frying process—this preserves the sauce and the flavor. Cool and store in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for about a month if well covered with oil.

To make the edamame:
Steam the edamame, and add the beans to a heated wok or sauté pan and toss in 4 tablespoons of XO sauce, the oyster sauce, a pinch of sugar, and if you have it, the schimi togarashi to taste. Mix with a spoon to coat the edamame evenly. Serve hot.

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Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.