I have fond memories of chewing on raw sugarcane pieces as snacks during my younger years living in Vietnam. After chewing on the sugarcane pieces to get out all the sweet juices you would spit out the chewed sugarcane. But what I didn’t like about chewing on sugarcane pieces was it leaves small pieces of fibrous bits in your mouth and it was not pleasant. Now I’m such a big fan of chewing on raw sugarcane pieces as I value my teeth too much. I really like to use raw sugarcane for chạo tôm (prawn paste wrapped on sugarcane) or in asian soups and desserts. Below are some steps on how to remove the tough outer layer of raw sugarcane before use.
When selecting sugarcane for eating, look for the stalk with the long section between the joints, especially if you want to cut into long sticks to use for chạo tôm (prawn paste on sugarcane).
I like to work with clean sugarcane so I would wipe the stalks clean with a damp cloth before cutting.
Before you get started make sure you have some newspapers, a cleaver and a chopping board. I highly recommend you spread out a lot of newspaper and work on top of the newspaper so that you can easily wrap up the mess and throw away. In the photos below I didn’t lay out the newspapers as I was lazy, but end up spending more time cleaning up the sticky mess afterwards.
What you want is the sections between the joints. Place your cleaver on close to the joint where you want to cut and try to cut as much of the cleaver in the sugarcane as possible. If you have strength just push the cleaver through the sugarcane stalk. Otherwise use a hammer and pound onto the cleaver.
Now keep repeating this until you cut away the joints. But if you require long sticks of sugarcane for wrapping prawn paste and removing all the joints will not achieve this then you can just leave one joint in to get your desired length.
Remove the tough outer layer by holding the section of sugarcane upright and place your cleaver near the edge. Slide the cleaver through the sugarcane until the outer layer is removed. Repeat the process to remove all outer layer.
Hold the peeled sugarcane section up right and tap the sugarcane onto the chopping board until the cleaver cuts the sugarcane into half. For one half of the sugarcane stick you can cut into another 2 to 3 thinner sticks (depending how thick you want). Now you have perfect sugarcane sticks ready to be wrapped in prawn paste.
But if you just want to use the sugarcane pieces for cooking in soups or desserts then I would cut them into smaller pieces.