Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane

Chao Tom: Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane Sticks

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Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane
To begin, this dish is very much similar to Sate Lilit Bali (Balinese Seafood Saté) in appearance. Sate Lilit Bali uses lemongrass as sticks/skewers instead. Sugarcanes might be not very common to be sold in North America, unless you live in the city where has many Asian markets such as Winnipeg. If there is no fresh sugarcane, you may find frozen or canned sugarcane. However, if those three choices are still not available, you are welcomed to substitute them for lemongrass as well just like the Sate Lilit.

Speaking about sugarcane, there is a memory of my teenagehood when I was still in high school. My school was surrounding with fields of sugarcane, blewah (a type of cantaloupe and melon), cucumber, timun suri (a family of cucumber) etc. Chasing a group of cart filled with sugarcanes that was brought from fields to sugarcane plants. Every time the sport subject whenever we had to jog outside the school and saw the cart, we chased it to get a stick of sugarcanes. For those who don’t know what blewah and timun suri are, please take a look this picture.

Tebu - Sugarcane
I enjoyed the Chao Tom with beds of herbs and nước mắm chấm. A bag of Vietnamese mixed herbs can also be purchased at Asian markets.

Many recipes of Chao Tom call for pork fat or lard. Do you know that I substituted the pork fat for chicken oil? Here is my tip.  Whenever I buy a whole chicken, I render the chicken fats/skins by using the same method for making chicken oil. For you who are a pesco vegetarian, you can use plant resources cooking oil. I have tried using extra virgin coconut oil and turned out pretty well too.

This post also goes for Delicious Vietnam #6, hosted by Sijeleng of Javaholic.

Chao Tom
– Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane – 

adapted from Andrea Nguyen 
 

Ingredients:
Shrimp Paste:
400 g (14 oz) peeled raw shrimps
salt
3 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp palm sugar (if you are using Indonesian palm sugar, reduce the amount since it has a darker colour and sweeter)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 large egg, beaten until frothy
2 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste
60 g (2 oz) shallot, minced
1 tbsp chicken oil (can be substituted with vegetable oil)

Other complements:
oil
sugarcane (skin peeled and quartered into 12-cm or 5-inch length)
herbs

Methods:
Rinse and devein the shrimp and pat dry the shrimp thoroughly with paper towels. In a food processor, put the shrimp, cornstarch, sugar, pepper, fish sauce, garlic, and shallot and blend well to form a smooth paste. Transfer the shrimp paste into a bowl.

Combine the shrimp paste with beaten egg and chicken oil, cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then divide the shrimp paste into 12 equal portions.

Line a steamer tray with parchment paper and oil the parchment. Ready a pot of water for steaming.

Put the herbs on a platter. Put the dipping sauce in a communal bowl. Set both at the table.

Have a bowl of water near where you’re working, along with the shrimp paste and sugarcane sticks. Wet one hand, then use the free hand to put a portion of paste in the palm of your hand. Shape them nicely and leave 4 cm or 1.5 inch of the sugar cane exposed. Hold on to the sugarcane stick with your dry hand and turn the stick, all the while patting the paste with the wet hand to smooth out the surface. Set on the prepared steamer tray. Repeat to make 11 more. Put overflow sticks on a plate.

Steam the shrimp sticks over boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, until opaque, slightly puffed, and just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. The shrimp sticks can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days; return them to room temperature for grilling.

Preheat a grill to medium-high. Meanwhile, rub some oil over each of the shrimp portion of each stick; this prevents sticking. Grill the shrimp sticks for 6 to 8 minutes, turning frequently, until the paste is sizzling and there’s some nice browning. Transfer to a serving plate and present with the herbs, and dipping sauce.

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17 thoughts on “Chao Tom: Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane Sticks”

  1. Ellie (Almost Bourdain)

    I love this Vietnamese grilled shrimp. It's a pity I can't find sugar cane near where I live to make this dish. Your photographs are stunning as always.

  2. It indeed looks like Sate Lilit Bali at the first impression, but it has sugarcane skewer instead of lemongrass. Wonder how it tastes with the sweetness from sugarcane bar after grilling – yum! it must be very great :D. As for the sugarcane, my grandma still loves to spoil me with diced sugarcane stacked on bamboo skewers when I'm home 😀

  3. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets

    Like Ellie, I sadly don't know of a source of fresh sugar cane here, but at least I can admire your gorgeous grilled shrimp on the net.

  4. I love this dish, beautiful and flavourful! I wonder if I can use the sugar cane to boil some herbal tea first, before using it for this dish. two-in-one use, haha

  5. @Ellie and Xiaolu: you've got my tips

    @Tata: lucky you!!!!

    @LCOM: I don't blame yoo! They are so good

    @Mycookinghut: oo I'm sure I'll do the same.

    @Pigpigscorner: I know, eh.

    @Noobcook: What a smart idea, Wiffy!!!

  6. Even in Jakarta sometimes is very hard to find sugar cane. I love this dish Pep! We usually have this dish at my favorite Vietnamese resto called Do-An. Yours look more appetizing than the resto version d(^.^)b

  7. Cooking Gallery

    Those look great, Pepy! I have wanted to make some myself as well for some time, but haven't done so till now!

  8. Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen

    I love to eat this and then chew on the sugarcane afterwards! Haven't eaten this in a long, long time. Thanks for bringing back all the memories and for sharing yours. 😉

  9. Oooh…I love those shrimp sticks…delicious. I can eat lots! 😀 Sugar cane is my childhood favourite. My parents said it's good for exercising your gums! Wish I can find them here.

  10. i love chao tom! my mom used to make it when i was living at home. it's fun to chew on the sugarcane after wards too.

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