Vietnamese Char-grilled Shrimp on Sugar Cane – Chao Tom Cuon
This appetizer is on that is near and dear to my heart. It is a treat that I remember getting whenever I went to a Vietnamese restaurant as a child with my mother. This is also a dish that is traditionally found in Central Vietnam where my mother is originally from. This sweet and savory grilled shrimp dish is fun finger food that can be eaten right off the sugar cane like a skewer, and as a bonus you enjoy the sugar cane itself, chewing on it afterwards for a sweet finish.
2 lb raw shrimp (peeled and devein)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp brown sugar (can be replaced with white sugar)
1 Tbsp nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Sugar Cane (Fresh or canned(much easier to find) – can also be replaced with fennel fronds or split lemongrass stalks although the end result won’t quite be the same)
Sorry, I haven’t come up with any good vegetarian suggestions for this recipe, but please let me know if you do!
Ingredients for Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
¼ cup sugar cane syrup
Lime juice (to taste)
Hot sauce (to taste – optional)
Food Processor (or you will be doing a LOT of chopping)
Grill pan or grill (grilling over charcoal adds a really nice flavor, but when you can’t get to a grill, a grill pan will work just fine)
After cleaning your shrimp, coarsely chop and put in food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor (except the sugar cane) and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Move the mixture to a bowl and place in the fridge for 15 minutes or so to allow the paste to firm up a bit. This will make it easier to form around the sugar cane.
While the shrimp paste is firming, drain the sugar cane (making sure to keep some of the syrup for the dipping sauce) and cut into quarters that are about ¼ inch thick. The number of sugar canes you need will depend on the amount of shrimp mixture you put on each one.
You can also prepare the steamer while you are waiting for your shrimp mixture for firm. To prevent the shrimp from sticking to the steamer you can use lightly oiled parchment paper as a liner.
Take the shrimp mixture out of the fridge and form around each sugar cane. Place each on a place while until you are done making them all (make sure to not put them to close together so that they don’t stick). Place all of the skewered shrimp in a steamer for 5-10 minutes (until the shrimp is opaque and slightly puffy).
While the shrimp is steaming, this would be a good time to heat up your grill or grill pan. Oil it lightly to prevent sticking. Once the shrimp are steamed, place on the grill for a few minutes on each side to get a nice grill mark and the shrimp is golden brown (a little oil on the shrimp before grilling will help getting the desired color on the shrimp).
After steaming and before grilling, you can freeze the shrimp or store in the fridge for later use. If you freeze the shrimp, make sure to thaw before grilling. They will last a good amount of time in the freezer, however if you decide to store them in the fridge, make sure you use them within 2-3 days.
For more flavor you can add shallots (sautéed or raw) to the shrimp mixture when you are processing the shrimp.