Chao Tom (Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp)

chao tom, shrimp paste, sugarcane

Chao Tom (Sugarcane Shrimp) is another one our favorite traditional Vietnamese appetizers from the central region of Vietnam and Hue, the imperial capital. The sugarcane skewer infuses a subtle sweetness to the shrimp paste and we love biting into the sugarcane as a chaser after the savory grilled shrimp. Serve alone as finger food or as a wrap with rice paper, lettuce and fresh herbs.

In Little Saigon, Orange County you can buy fresh sugarcane from any number of shops selling sugarcane juice. Even though it’s not directly advertised, they’ll sell you the cane and split it for you…just ask. But if not available, you can use canned sugarcane. Rasa Malaysia has a great pan-Asian recipe site that we love and we used her recipe, adding some paprika for a bit of smokiness and heat as well as steaming them before grilling.

Chao Tom (Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp) (adapted from rasa malaysia)
Printable Recipe

  • 1.5 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and devein
  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 egg white
  • sugarcane sticks about 5 inches long. Split each sugar cane into fourths, lengthwise

Combine the shrimp, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, fish sauce, and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth and transfer to mixing bowl. Beat egg white until foamy and then fold into the mixture. Allow to rest for about 1/2 hr in fridge. Keeping your hands wet, take a large ice cream scoopful of shrimp paste and shape over end or middle of a sugar cane skewer. This can be deep fried or grilled. We briefly steamed ours first for about 10 min and them finished them off on the grill until golden brown.

To serve as a wrap, you can slide of the shrimp paste from the sugarcane and quarter for easier wrapping with rice paper and lettuce. Add mint, basil, perilla leaves, and dip with nuoc mam dipping sauce.

chao tom, shrimp paste, sugarcane 

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30 Responses to “Chao Tom (Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp)”

  1. 1

    jeannie — July 9, 2009 @ 1:50 am

    after devouring the shrimp i like to chew on the sugarcane to get the juice out of it. barbaric, i know! 😛

  2. 2

    Mochachocolata Rita — July 9, 2009 @ 1:54 am

    yummmmm….at this stage, i wont try making these at home yet. let me reserve a seat in nearest vietnamese eatery hehe

  3. 3

    ♥peachkins♥ — July 9, 2009 @ 3:23 am

    This is the second time I've seen this recipe and I find it very interesting and it sounds delicious!

  4. 4

    Jeff Shattuck — July 9, 2009 @ 4:34 am

    These are great but I have never made them at home. If I started with shrimp in the food processor I would end up with shrimp eggrolls (I have no will power). I agree with Rita too, chewing the sugar cane is like half the fun.

  5. 5

    Miakoda — July 9, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

    This is the first time I've seen this and I'm intrigued. What a lovely idea- the sugarcane at the end must be a perfect finish…I'm already thinking about how I can make this with a vegetarian twist. Thank you!

  6. 6

    Deborah — July 9, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

    My mom had some sugarcane shrimp at a restaurant we went to not long ago, and I've been wanting to try making it at home. This version looks sooo delicious!

  7. 7

    Lone Acorn — July 9, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

    You have a blog full of great recipes and I wanted to let you know that I have an award waiting on my blog for you to collect. Cheers!

  8. 8

    noobcook — July 10, 2009 @ 3:05 am

    This looks great … perhaps I should save the bamboo canes to make this after I make my sugar cane herbal drink next time ^_^

  9. 9

    Ravenous Couple — July 10, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

    jeannie: we're barbaric right there with you girl! 🙂

    Rita: You're an awesome cook…this would be a piece of cake for you!

    peachkins: Thank you for visiting and commenting..maybe try it sometimes!

    Jeff: Haha well, who says you can't make both at once?

    Miakoda: We don't know of any vegetarian substitute..maybe something soy based?

    Deborah: Please let us know if you do and how it goes.

    Lone Acorn: Thank you for your kind comments. We'll have to check out your blog.

    noobcook: Thank you..nothing wrong with maximizing every possible use of sugarcane 🙂

  10. 10

    figtree — July 10, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

    Ive never had anything like this..look forward to trying..Figtreeapps

  11. 11

    Marc @ NoRecipes — July 13, 2009 @ 4:47 am

    Mmmmm this is one of my favourites. I've seen sugar cane show up on occasion in Chinatown here, but they're always so large. I'll have to try looking for the canned variety.

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — July 14, 2009 @ 5:02 am

    figtree: give it a try and let us know if you do!

    marc: try to have them split it for you into quarters.. NYC chinatown was something else–survived on Deluxe Food Market @ 79 Elizabeth when we could't cook in the apt.

  13. 13

    Rasa Malaysia — July 14, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

    This looks so great. I cheated and just fried mine. I like the idea of boiling first and then grilling, so the shrimp paste won't stick to the grill, you are brilliant. 🙂

  14. 14

    Table Talk — July 15, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

    I too love ordering this appetizer out–the sugar cane adds fun and flavor to the dish. Thanks for sharing!

  15. 15

    Ravenous Couple — July 15, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

    RM: Precooking it definitely helped to maintain the shape and solves sticky factor. Thanks so much for visiting our site!

    Table talk: Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  16. 16

    doan nguyen — June 20, 2010 @ 1:30 am

    can i use canned sugar cane?

  17. 17

    Ravenous Couple — June 20, 2010 @ 6:10 am

    Doan: yes, you sure can! Let us know how it goes on our FB fan page!

  18. 18

    Anonymous — January 10, 2011 @ 3:50 am

    Can you make ahead and freeze or will it not be as tasty?

  19. 19

    Jenni — January 14, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    Thank you for the great recipe! I was looking for something like this and this seems spot-on for next weekend’s dinner with my parents. 🙂

  20. 20

    shizzknits — November 19, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    I’m going to try this recipe next week and was wondering if we can serve the shrimp mixture as patties….instead of on sugar cane? Just curious because I can’t always make it down to Little Saigon! Thanks!

  21. 21

    The Ravenous Couple — November 25, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    yes, but you can get sugar cane in cans too!

  22. 22

    A Canadian Foodie — August 11, 2013 @ 8:48 am

    Looks yummy and I plan to make these – but how many do you get with 1.5 pounds of shrimp? I would need at least 16… but am thinking you would get about 10?

  23. 23

    The Ravenous Couple — August 12, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    it would also depend on how large/thick your patties are…so keep that into account

  24. 24

    A Canadian Foodie — August 12, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

    Of course – but can you give me a ball park?
    Say the size in the photo – how many?

  25. 25

    A Canadian Foodie — August 15, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    OK. I made them. Kind of. Weirdest thing. I processed the ingredients and they were almost gelatinous. After being chilled, it was impossible to shape them into anything. They were a unified blob. I tried to warm some of it in my hand and form it around a stick, but it just melted and didn’t form onto the stick??? I will buy wraps and fill them with the shrimp meat. It smells delicious,but has the texture of a thick jello and that is how it behaves, too.
    I am so disappointed and followed the instructions to a T.

  26. 26

    Fay Abrams — October 6, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    Just got back from Vietnam and had this at a “royal” dinner in Hue – and loved it. Will definitely make it at home and cook it the steam/grill way you suggest. Thanks

  27. 27

    Mimi — December 14, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

    I followed the recipes but I only steamed them for 4 instead of 10 minutes. It was very yummy. The only thing I was hoping for was to have them stay plump. I fried instead of grill and they came out great.

    Any idea how to keep it plump after fried. I’m planning on making a large volume like 8 pounds of shrimps. Any suggestion for making ahead will be appreciated. Thank you.

  28. 28

    Ty — December 14, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

    Thank you for the recipe. I just made 2 pounds of shrimps and followed this recipe. They were yummy.

  29. 29

    Ty — December 14, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

    Question: I steamed for 4 minutes instead of 10 then fried them. I wonder if shortening steaming caused them to shrinkage rather than staying plump. Any suggestions for it to stay plump?

  30. 30

    Paul Schaub — June 6, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

    I have made Chao tom several times from a much different and complicated recipe.
    Mine uses roasted shallots boiled pork rind and feffinitely ginger.I was given Chao tom by Vietnamese friends but mine are more tasty than theirs.Consider using ginger it is an essential ingredient in Asian cooking.

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