I was very surprised to see fresh sugar cane selling at my local fruit shop recently. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the fresh sugar cane was making chạo tôm. Chạo tôm is seasoned prawn paste wrapped around sugar cane stick, then steamed to set it’s shape and finished off with grilled or deep fried. The prawn meat is cut off the sugar cane and wrapped in lettuce with fresh herbs and dipped with fish sauce. I thought I could resist chewing on the sugar cane afterwards, but the sweet juice of the sugar cane is hard to resist.
Chạo Tôm – (Vietnamese Prawn on Sugar Cane)
1kg prawn, peeled and deveined (net 600 grams prawn meat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoosn ground white pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons cornflour
12 sugar cane skewers (skin removed and quartered into 15 cm lengths)
1 small lettuce (soft leaves)
2 cups Vietnamese herb leaves (mint leaves, perilla leaves)
1 cucumber, sliced in half and cut into wedges
1/2 cup fish sauce dipping sauce
Roughly chopped the prawn meat and put into bowl. Add garlic, salt, sugar, white pepper, fish sauce, egg and cornflour and combine well. Transfer mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Prepare a steamer with water ready for steaming. Line the tray with baking paper and oil the baking paper.
Apply oil to one hand, then use the other hand to put 1.5 tablespoons of prawn paste in the palm of your hand, spreading it out to an even layer. Put a sugarcane stick on top and in the centre of the paste leaving the two ends sticking out. Then close your hand to wrap around the stick and continue shaping it by rotating the stick. Set on the prepared steamer tray.
Steam the prawn sticks over boiling water for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.
Preheat grill. Brush some oil onto the prawn skewers and chargrill until golden brown.
To serve, remove the prawn meat from the sugar can stick and cut into 4 strips. Wrap each in a small piece of lettuce with herbs and dip in the sauce. The prawn meat can also be wrapped with rice paper with vermicelli noodles and herbs.