Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp (Chao Tom) - AFF IndoChina Jun 2014

At the start of AFF IndoChina beginning June, I had bookmarked this particular Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp recipe because it looks so yummy and I love shrimps and sugarcane. So throughout the month, I was looking out for sugarcane. The vegetable stores at the wet market do sell them in a bundle of half a dozen, but I only needed one. I guess many people buy the sugarcane to brew herbal drink, but I didn't want to brew any. I could probably go to a sugarcane drink stall to buy a stick of sugarcane, but hesitated coz I wasn't sure if the store owners would sell it me :p Or I could use lemongrass as replacement as suggested by the recipe.

I just kept procrastinating and sort of gave up on the idea. Until yesterday. Was at Bollywood Veggies at Kranji Countryside for lunch and they had a makeshift stall selling farm produce. Sugarcane was on sale at 2 for $1. Initially I wanted to buy, then once again hesitated coz I didn't know if I could split the sugarcane into small sticks required for the dish. Anyways, I bought some vegetables and when paying, the kind store owner gave me a stick of sugarcane! So sweet and nice of her :)

And so, I managed to make this Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp after all. Since I only wanted to make this for the fun of it and to find out about the taste, decided to make just 6 sticks using about 12 shrimp. Basically, chop up the shrimp, blend with marinate ingredients, chill for 30 mins, shape onto the sugarcane, steam for a few minutes and finally pan-fry (or air-fry). Sounds simple enough :)


Started off with preparing the sugarcane sticks. It wasn't that difficult after all. First hold the sugarcane vertically, use a sharp knife to cut into the top part of the skin then chop downward, the skin would just split by itself. Likewise for the sugarcane flesh, simply cut into the top part, chop downwards and the flesh would split by itself. Lengthwise, it's quite easy to cut through once each stick is slim. In no time, I had more than a dozen sugarcane sticks.

Next, proceeded to make the shrimp paste. Just deshell and devein the shrimp, and combine them with salt, cornstarch, palm sugar, black pepper, fish sauce, egg, garlic, shallot and olive oil. Blend into a coarse paste and chill the paste for about 30 mins. Then shape the paste onto the sugarcane sticks and steam on high heat for about 3-4 mins. And finally grill or pan-fry the sugarcane shrimp.

 I made 2 versions after steaming the sugarcane shrimp, 3 sticks were pan-fried in a frying pan.

And the remaining 3 sticks into the Airfryer. Could see that both yielded slightly different results in terms of appearance.

The sugarcane shrimps that were pan-fried were slightly more fragrant but the texture was softer. Whereas the ones that were air-fried were dryer with firmer texture. I enjoyed both versions, could taste the sweetness of the succulent shrimp. The fun part was chewing on the sugarcane and sucking the juice after eating the shrimp ball. Was too lazy to make the traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce to go along, instead I just ate the sugarcane shrimp on its own (it was flavourful enough) as well as with some thai sweet chilli sauce. I believe this traditional Vietnamese appetiser would be very popular as finger food if served at parties. Probably could add some water chestnut or coriander roots/leaves to make it even more crunchy and flavourful. Next time, if I couldn't get any sugarcane, I would give lemongrass sticks a try!

Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp (Chao Tom)
(recipe from Vietworld Kitchen, makes 6 sticks)
  • 12 pc medium size shrimp (about 230g), deshell and devein
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 cloves shallot
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Place the shrimp and the rest of the ingredients into an electric chopper and blend into a coarse shrimp paste. Chill the shrimp paste for at least 30 mins.
  2. To make the sugarcane shrimp, first wet the hands. Take a ball of shrimp paste and place onto the palm. place a sugarcane stick in the middle and wrap the shrimp paste around the sugarcane stick.
  3. Steam the sugarcane shrimp on high heat for about 3-4 mins. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To pan-fry, heat a tsp of olive oil on medium low fire, place 3 sticks of sugarcane shrimp onto the pan and pan-fry till golden brown.
  5. To air-fry, place sugarcane shrimp into the air-fryer, air-fry for 8 mins at 180 degree celsius.
  6. Serve warm with Vietnamese dipping sauce or thai sweet chilli sauce.



I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks

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