Sunday, May 2, 2010

Supper Time

With the weather finally leaving the cold and snow season, I decided it was time to try my hand at Chao Tom or Barbecued Shrimp Paste on Sugarcane. I've enjoyed this dish in Vietnamese restaurants but have never attempted to make it at home because I could never find the sugar cane.


But my search ended this weekend when my go-to Asian grocery store had a bucket full of the long green stalks. They looks a bit like bamboo but are not nearly as hard. With my shrimp and sugar cane supplies in hand it was back to the kitchen.


This recipe is really easy. Peel, clean and de-vein a pound of shrimp. Finely mince 6 cloves of garlic and 6 shallots. Put the shrimp, garlic, shallots and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a food processor. Blend until you get a fine sticky paste.

shrimp paste

Next cut the sugar cane into 4 inch lengths. Peel the green outer layer of the stalk. Once it has been peeled, you need to quarter the pieces so you have four 4" skewers to mold your paste onto. Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil onto your hands so the shrimp paste won't stick. Take a couple of tablespoons of the shrimp paste and place it in your palm. Place a piece of sugar cane on top of the paste in your palm and mold it around the skewer. You want to leave the ends of the sugar cane clean of the paste so you have a way to turn the skewers over while it's grilling. Continue with the remaining paste and sugar cane skewers. Now the next step seems to differ from chef to chef in the recipes I've looked at. Some say to steam your little package for 3 to 4 minutes over boiling water and some say go ahead and grill without the steaming step. I will say one advantage of steaming is that you can make these ahead of time and then grill them right before you serve them. Grill the shrimp paste over medium high coals until slightly browned.


To serve, have a traditional Vietnamese vegetable tray full of lettuce, carrots, mint, Thai basil, green onions, and cilantro. Don't forget the Nuoc Cham dipping sauce. You remove the shrimp paste from the skewer and either wrap it in lettuce with the vegetables you like or you can wrap it in a dampened sheet of rice paper.


Looks good yes? But I have to be honest and admit to a mistake that made this a not so good tasting effort. I had purchased the head on shrimp and did not clean them well enough to remove all the reddish parts found in the shrimp heads. Little did I know that the small amount would muddy the delicate clean flavor of the shrimp paste. Not even the mint or dipping sauce hide the mealy feel on my tongue. Lesson learned and was glad that it was know that only I suffered from my mistake. Still there's plenty of grilling time to get the taste right to share with others.


Making Space said...

That looks so beautiful! I bet if you served it to guests no one would notice a mealy taste. Everyone would just be wowed by the dish and the presentation. It's really visually stunning. I've never eaten shrimp on sugarcane, hmm... here people strip the sugarcane and make it into a skewer shape (really thin) and put chicken on it. Nice. Love your fresh sides too. Is that an orchid in the vase? Looks like something I'd see here at my farmer's market.

Big Shamu said...

You'd lose that bet. Yes, a tiny orchid. Trying to remember what restaurant take out food gave me that, which I promptly put and water and decided it would fit in with my display.

Making Space said...

Alright, but it's still a total VisualYum.

Those orchids get made into lei here, I just never expected to see one on your table. Sweetness.

And your greens are stunning. STUN.NIN.

Dani said...

Gorgeous looking Sham!

I think it's so cool that you cook things like this. Gives us readers an incentive to break out the normal weekly cooking mode.

kitchen table said...

This is something new to me! I would love to try because it really looks so tasty!

LaDivaCucina said...

Hi Shamy, I didn't make mine this weekend, I had too many other veggies to cook without going to buy the stuff for this...I think sugar cane lasts a while! (I hope)

I totally understand about the little nasty nuance of shrimp head! I'm going to try mine with prawn (again) and also I'm going to do pork too. Did you suck on the cane after eating the shrimp? That's the best part!

Photos look great as always!

Buzz Kill said...

They look like little barbequed ribs. MS is right about the presentation. Unfortunately, this may be the last time you can do a shrimp dish for a while. With what's going on in the gulf, I expect shrimp prices to go through the roof.

LaDivaCucina said...

Buzzy, you mean there was an oil spill in Vietnam too?! haha!

Excuse my cynicism but seeing shrimp from the U.S. for sale in the grocery store is rare down here. Hardly EVER see Key West pink shrimp displayed you have to ask for it. Shameful.

I hope the "drill, baby, drill" crowd is rethinking their stance on more oil drilling of our coast. I won't support it until these catastrophies can no longer happen. (funny how they always do though)

intuitive eggplant said...

Certainly looks and sounds delish. Too bad about the shrimp heads, though.