Here, sugarcane stalks serve as a great presentation skewer for the prawn paste as well as lending a sweet finish to the dish. The delicate flavours of Vietnamese chao tom are a delicious mouthful – prawns, garlic and herbs, all wrapped up in fresh lettuce leaves and dipped in a sweet, salty, sour and spicy sauce.
Serve: 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 shallots, minced
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 500g medium-sized raw shrimps, peeled, deveined and patted dry
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 4 pieces of long sugarcane or 1 can of sugarcane
- 1 small head butter lettuce
- 1 bunch coriander
- 1 bunch mint
Nuoc cham dipping sauce:
- Mix 3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ cup water, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1 slightly crushed clove of garlic (remove before serving) and 1 red birdseye chilli.
- Put shallots, raw shrimp, egg, fish sauce, salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, cornstarch and baking powder into a food processor.
- Process until it becomes an almost smooth paste.
- Refrigerate for half an hour or more until the paste is firm and cold.
- Quarter the sugarcane pieces lengthwise.
- Wet hands with cold water. Mould 2 tablespoons of shrimp paste around each stick of sugarcane, carefully sealing the edges around the stick.
- Place the sugarcane sticks in a single layer in a steamer basket lined with oiled parchment paper.
- Steam until the shrimp paste turns pink, around 3 minutes.
- Before serving, grill the shrimp sticks until the paste is hot inside and slightly charred around the edges.
- Serve immediately. Remove the prawn paste from the sugarcane, cut into segments, wrap each one in a small piece of lettuce with herbs and dip into the sauce. The sugarcane sticks can also be chewed on for a sweet finish.