Vietnamese Recipes & Cuisines (Appetizers)

Grilled Shrimp Paste on Sugar Cane Skewers Recipe

(Chao Tom)

This dish, known as chao tom in Vietnam, is a classic. Orginally created by the ingenious cooks for the imperial kitchen in Hue, it has become a national treasure. To appreciate its full impact, some prefer simply to grill it and eat it by itself, enjoying every single bite, right down the sweet, smoky flavors of the sugar can. Chao tom vendors in the streets of Hue, Hanoi and Saigon supply this delicious snack all day long.

Ingredients : Serves 4

50 g

7.5 ml


2 cloves


15 ml

15 ml

15 ml

350 g


1/4 teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon

Pork fat

Vegetable oil

Onion, finely chopped

Garlic, crushed


Fish sauce

Raw cane or dark brown sugar

Cornflour (cornstarch)

Raw shrimps, peeled and deveined

Piece of fresh sugar cane, about 20 cm long

Salt, or to taste

Pepper, or to taste

Method :
  • Place the pork fat in a pan of boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain well and chop using a sharp knife. Set aside.

  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan and stir in the onion on and garlic. Just as they begin to color, remove from the heat and tip them into a bowl.

  • Beat in the egg, fish sauce and sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper, and then stir in the cornflour.

  • Add the pork fat and shrimps to the mixture, and mix well. Transfer to a food processor and process to a slightly lumpy paste, or grind in a mortar using a pestle.

  • Divide the paste into eight portions. Using a strong knife of cleaver, cut the sugar can in half and then cut each piece into quarters lengthways. Take a piece of sugar cane in your hand and mould a portion of the paste around it, pressing it gently so the edges are sealed. Place the coated sticks on an oiled tray, while you make the remaining skewers in the same way.

  • For the best flavor, cook the shrimp paste skewers over a barbecue for 5-6 minutes, turning them frequently until they are nicely browned all over. Alternatively, cook the skewers under                   a conventional grill (broiled).

  • Serve immediately.

Tips :

Although canned sugar can can be used for this recipe, it is no substitute for fresh. Fresh sugar cane is often available in African, Caribbean and Asian markets, as well as in some supermarkets. When cooked in the Vietnamese home, this dish is usually served with traditional accompaniments of salad, rice wrappers and a dipping sauce. The grilled shrimp paste is pulled off the sugar cane, wrapped in a rice paper and dipped in sauce. The stripped sugar can can then be chewed.

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