Chao Tom is a well known food that comes from the central Vietnam. It is grilled shrimp paste on a sugarcane, the sugarcane basically acts as a skewer and we can chew on it after eating the meat. The paste comes with the marination are steamed first and then grilled to finish. I have made this once many months ago and that time, i baked them instead, also i did not use sugarcane but lemongrass stalk. This time i had used lemongrass too but instead of baking them, i shallow fried them on a non stick pan. I find that by frying them, bits of the lemongrass flavour can be detected unlike baking. yes, can chew on that lemongrass stalks too.
There is a little tricky wrapping the paste around the lemongrass stalk, i find. Get ready a bowl of water beside you and wet your palms so that the paste doesnt stick to your palms and will make the wrapping much easier. Also make sure to pat the prawns real dry before chopping them otherwise the paste will be soft and watery and that will make the wrapping part difficult. I did not make the dipping sauce this time but i have included the link to make the sauce, i only served them with our local chilli sauce and it's still good. If we do not want to make them into stick form, we can turn them into patties, fry them and cut them up and serve with a variety of herbs or leaves with minimal sauce, that's how i see the restaurants at my place here serve them .
Recipe ( from vietworldkitchen.com ) with minor changes
600gm medium shrimps ( peeled and deveined, net weight is about 11oz/320gms for mine )
2tsps pounded palm sugar/ brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
13/4 tsp fish sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed into paste
2tbsp minced shallot
1tbsp canola oil
1 can sugarcane or fat lemongrass stalks ( i used abt 5 lemongrass stalks ), for skewing
oil for grilling or frying
some accompaniments like mints, cilantro
3/4 cup Nuoc Cham dipping sauce ( i just serve with chilli sauce )
Clean the shrimps and pat dry with paper towel. Coarsely chop the shrimp, then put them in a bowl. Add 1/4 tsp of salt, cornstarch, pepper, sugar, fish sauce, egg, garlic and shallots. Transfer to a food processor and process till just a coarse paste forms. Transfer to a bowl , add in the oil, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 15-30mins at least. The mixture will stiffen as it sits ( i let it sit overnight )
Cut off the end of the lemongrass and half or quarter it lengthwise, depending how fat the lemongrass is. Line a steamer with already oiled parchment paper or oiled plate and ready a pot of water for steaming. Have a bowl of water near you along with shrimp paste and sugarcane/lemongrass stalks. Wet one hand and with free hand put about 2 tbsps of shrimp paste onto the wet palms, spreading out into a circle about 2.5inches wide and 14inch thick ( estimate ) Centre the lemongrass stalk on the centre of the paste and close the palm to make the paste adhere to the stalk and surround it. You can turn the lemongrass stalk, patting the paste with wet hand to smooth out the surface. Repeat for all the remaining shrimp paste.
Set on the prepared steamer and steam over boiling water for about 3-4 minutes, slightly puffed and just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. They can now be covered and refrigerated up till 3 days for grilling, return to room temperature before grilling.
Preheat grill to medium high and rub some oil over the shrimp portion and grill for 6-8 minutes or till golden brown. I shallow fried them in a non stick pan instead and fried them till golden brown . To eat, you can cut the fried or grilled shrimp paste vertically ino 3 parts, they can be removed easily from the sticks and wrap them with lettuce leaves, mints and herbs dip with the sauce. Chew on the sugarcane or lemongrass :)
Note : you can refer to the source of the recipe here on the picture of the canned or cut sugarcane or lemongrass stalks.
I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest ( Indochina ) hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks