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.
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.
– Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane –
adapted from Andrea Nguyen
400 g (14 oz) peeled raw shrimps
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)
sugarcane (skin peeled and quartered into 12-cm or 5-inch length)
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.