Chao Tom (Sugarcane Shrimp) is another one our favorite traditional Vietnamese appetizers from the central region of Vietnam and Hue, the imperial capital. The sugarcane skewer infuses a subtle sweetness to the shrimp paste and we love biting into the sugarcane as a chaser after the savory grilled shrimp. Serve alone as finger food or as a wrap with rice paper, lettuce and fresh herbs.
In Little Saigon, Orange County you can buy fresh sugarcane from any number of shops selling sugarcane juice. Even though it’s not directly advertised, they’ll sell you the cane and split it for you…just ask. But if not available, you can use canned sugarcane. Rasa Malaysia has a great pan-Asian recipe site that we love and we used her recipe, adding some paprika for a bit of smokiness and heat as well as steaming them before grilling.
- 1.5 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and devein
- 4 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon of white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika powder
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 egg white
- sugarcane sticks about 5 inches long. Split each sugar cane into fourths, lengthwise
Combine the shrimp, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, fish sauce, and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth and transfer to mixing bowl. Beat egg white until foamy and then fold into the mixture. Allow to rest for about 1/2 hr in fridge. Keeping your hands wet, take a large ice cream scoopful of shrimp paste and shape over end or middle of a sugar cane skewer. This can be deep fried or grilled. We briefly steamed ours first for about 10 min and them finished them off on the grill until golden brown.
To serve as a wrap, you can slide of the shrimp paste from the sugarcane and quarter for easier wrapping with rice paper and lettuce. Add mint, basil, perilla leaves, and dip with nuoc mam dipping sauce.