Chạo Tôm Recipe

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Chao Tom Intro

Chao Tom (Chạo Tôm) is a Vietnamese dish made with grilled shrimp paste on sugarcane sticks. Another English translation of its name is “sugarcane shrimp surimi.” It has an intriguing history and a widespread reputation in Vietnam.

This post will provide a comprehensive account of this addictive Vietnamese dish. You will learn what makes Chao Tom unique, what tools and ingredients it needs, how to cook it at home, and how to serve it best. The key to stirring up your meals or parties is right here!

What Is Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp?

Chao Tom2

Chao Tom, Chạo Tôm, or Vietnamese sugarcane shrimp, is a dish that comes from Hue, the capital city of the former Nguyen dynasty. Many local cooks, tour guides, and travel writers claim royal chefs once served it to the kings and high-ranking ministers and officials in the imperial court.

Adding to the appeal is the incredible deliciousness of the dish itself. Each serving consists of a thick layer of springy and succulent grilled shrimp paste on a sugarcane stick. The stick is chewable and will release sweet juice when you munch on it.

Take a bite, and you will see how the sugary juice with a floral scent mixes wonderfully with the savory flavor of the shrimp paste. Chao Tom is a famous appetizer for special occasions, like wedding banquets, death anniversaries, and birthday parties.

What Are Other Versions Of Chao Tom?

While the sugarcane Chao Tom version is massively popular, the classic version is based on lemongrass sticks. The herb boasts a lemony and slightly spicy flavor that goes well with seafood, including shrimp. The pleasant aroma is an added charm.

Another version of Chao Tom uses the fronds of fennel bulbs as the sticks. It isn’t very well-known in Vietnam, but if you can’t find sugarcane or lemongrass, this variation is a nice substitution.

What Are The Recommended Tools For Making Chao Tom?

Chao Tom needs the same tools that other grilled dishes require. I bet BBQ fans already have all of them. But if they aren’t available in your kitchen yet, you only need to make a small investment.

  • Oven: Any oven with the grill setting can do the job. Even a toaster oven can be an ideal option. But you should ensure that the Chao Tom sticks don’t touch each other inside it.
  • Mixing Bowl: For mixing the ingredients of the shrimp paste.
  • Eco-friendly Disposable Plastic Gloves: You should put on a pair of eco-friendly disposable plastic gloves while mixing the shrimp paste as well as shaping the Chao Tom sticks. Doing so ensures food safety and prevents the paste from sticking to your hands.

To protect the environment, you can also choose gloves made from biodegradable materials or opt for reusable natural latex gloves.

  • Cooking Oil Spray: Spaying the Chao Tom sticks before and during grilling makes them juicy on the inside and springy on the outside. It is also used to prevent the shrimp paste from clinging to the gloves.
  • Food Processor: In the past, Vietnamese cooks had to prepare the shrimp paste with a mortar and pestle, which was a labor- and time-consuming process. Nowadays, you can do so with a food processor.
  • A Pair Of Tongs: For transferring Chao Tom sticks in and out of the oven.
  • Sieve: For moving the pork fat cubes out of the cooking pot. This tool is optional.
  • Cooking pot: For blanching pork fat. This tool is optional.
Chao Tom Tools

What Are The Ingredients For Chao Tom?

This recipe calls for some ingredients such as shrimp (obviously), different types of pork products, sugarcane sticks, and various Vietnamese condiments. You can easily find them at Asian grocery stores or large supermarkets.

For Making Chao Tom:

  • Shrimp: Fresh shrimp are the ideal ingredients, but frozen ones are acceptable. Some recipes suggest using prawns, but since they are more expensive than shrimp and don’t produce any noticeable improvement in the flavor, I prefer shrimp.
  • Pork paste: For binding the shrimp paste ingredients together and improving its juiciness.
  • Pork fat: For adding richness and moisture to the shrimp paste. My recipe requires cutting the pork fat into very small cubes so that they will melt away after grilling. You can replace pork fat with ground pork belly or vegetable oil, but the result won’t be the same.
  • Sugarcane sticks: For creating the base of Chao Tom. Fresh sugarcane sticks are often hard to find, but canned sugarcane isn’t.
  • Egg: For binding the ingredients of the shrimp paste and creating a golden color for Chao Tom after cooking.
  • Scallions and oil garnish: Another ingredient for adding moistness to the shrimp paste. It also makes the shrimp paste more aromatic.
  • Minced garlic and shallots: For improving the flavor and aroma of Chao Tom.
  • Seasoning: I use ground black pepper, red pepper powder (used for kimchi), brown sugar, and soup powder for this dish. For red pepper powder, I choose the Chackhan brand.
Chao Tom Ingredients1

For Serving With Chao Tom

  • Vegetables and leafy greens: For serving with Chao Tom. My favorites are cucumbers, lettuce, Thai basil, Vietnamese balm, beefsteak plant, etc.
  • Starchy dishes: For serving with Chao Tom. Rice paper rolled with vegetables is a popular choice, but rice noodles are also suitable.
  • Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce): This is the most well-known condiment to go with Chao Tom. You can create a simple version with hot water, Vietnamese fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, minced garlic, and chili peppers.
Chao Tom Ingredients2

How Can I Prepare Chao Tom At Home?

The cooking process of Chao Tom starts with preparing the vegetables and making the shrimp paste, then you can create the Chao Tom sticks and grill them before serving them with sides and condiments. You can look at the photos to better understand how to shape Chao Tom.

Step 1: Prepare The Ingredients

Wash the vegetables and let them drain.

Peel and devein shrimp. You can clean shrimp quickly with just a pair of scissors, though buying pre-cleaned shrimp is also possible.

Dice pork fat into small cubes.

Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients1

Cut each sugarcane stick to a length of 10 centimeters (4 inches) and quarter it lengthwise. You can also thin it by hacking away the sides.

Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients2

Blanch them in boiling water for 45 – 60 seconds before immersing them in cold water. Sift them out and let them drain. The purpose of the step is to remove the odor and impurities in the fat.

Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients3

Step 2 Prepare The Shrimp Paste

Run the cleaned shrimp through the food processor until you get a coarse paste.

Chao Tom Step 2 Prepare Shrimp Paste1

Add the shrimp paste, pork paste, pork fat, scallions and oil garnish, minced garlic, minced shallots, an egg, brown sugar, red pepper powder, and soup powder to the mixing bowl.

Put on eco-friendly disposable plastic gloves and mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Chao Tom Step 2 Prepare Shrimp Paste2

Step 3: Shape The Chao Tom Sticks

Put on another pair of eco-friendly disposable plastic gloves and spray them with oil.

Scoop out a suitable amount of shrimp paste, put it in the palm of your hand, and flatten it into a small circle. Place a sugarcane stick on top of it, then close the hand with the shrimp paste tightly to make the shrimp paste stick to the sugarcane.

Rotate the stick with your free hand while using the other hand to pat out the shrimp paste and ensure that it covers the stick evenly. Ideally, the complete Chao Tom stick should look like a thin and elongated chicken thigh.

Repeat the process for the remaining sugarcane sticks.

Chao Tom Step 3 Shape Chao Tom Sticks

Step 4: Grill The Chao Tom Sticks

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F) for 5 minutes.

Arrange the Chao Tom sticks on the tray and grill at 180°C (356°F) for 10 minutes.

Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks1
Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks2

Remove the tray from the oven and turn over the sticks.

Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks3

Spray them with oil and bake for another 5 minutes.

Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks4
Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks5

While waiting for Chao Tom to cook, you can make the dipping sauce.

Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks6

Step 5: Complete The Dish

Serve the dish with rice noodles, rice paper, herbs, and the dipping sauce.

My favorite approach is to make a fresh spring roll with a piece of Chao Tom and dip it in the sauce. But you can enjoy the dish in other ways, such as dipping a Chao Tom stick directly in the sauce.

Chao Tom Outro

What Tips And Tricks Can I Use To Prepare Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp?

There are a few things you can do to make your Vietnamese sugarcane shrimp more delicious. This section will also introduce dishes for pairing with Chao Tom, how to store and reheat Chao Tom, and similar Vietnamese dishes to try.

Here are the must-know tips and tricks to prepare the best Chao Tom or Vietnamese sugarcane shrimp:

  • Cook Chao Tom with a charcoal grill: Before modern ovens arrived, charcoal grills were the most popular tools for making Chao Tom. They add a pleasantly smoky tone to the dish.
  • Use an air-fryer: if you choose to make Chao Tom through deep-frying, you can work with an air-fryer to reduce the oil content. Remember to spray Chao Tom with enough oil to keep them moist and juicy during the process.
  • Don’t cook Chao Tom early: to keep the crispy texture of this dish, I prefer to prepare it just before the meal. In addition, Chao Tom is ideally served hot.
  • Adjust the amount of seasoning: This recipe uses as many spices as authentic Vietnamese Chao Tom requires, but feel free to change the seasoning according to your liking.
  • Add minced pork: To create more servings, you can incorporate minced pork into the shrimp paste. Don’t forget to combine it with the other ingredients thoroughly.
  • Optional steps: to keep the recipe simple, I have omitted a few optional steps. You can include them in the process to enhance the quality of your Chao Tom.
  • These steps are as follows: keeping the shrimp in the freezer for 20 minutes or so, throwing the shrimp paste against the walls of the bowl multiple times to improve its consistency, and steaming the Chao Tom sticks for several minutes before grilling them.

What Dishes Go Well With Chao Tom?

Many Vietnamese people like to accompany Chao Tom with rice noodles, rice paper, Nuoc Cham, and vegetables. In addition to popular greens, Chao Tom can also be enjoyed with slices of tangy star fruits, bitter green bananas, or refreshing tomatoes.

If you don’t want to spend time making Nuoc Cham, some Sriracha or sweet chili sauce will be an ideal condiment. As for starchy sides, Banh Hoi (Vietnamese woven rice noodles) can replace ordinary rice noodles.

How To Store And Reheat Chao Tom?

To store Chao Tom, put everything, including the sugarcane sticks, in an airtight container and transfer it to the fridge. Chao Tom will stay good for 2 – 3 days. To store the dish in the freezer for 2 – 3 months, use a freezer-friendly bag.

To restore cold Chao Tom sticks to their former crispy glory, you can reheat them in a skillet or a microwave. Drizzling a little water or scallions and oil garnish over them during the cooking process will keep them juicy.

What Are Other Suggestions For Similar Vietnamese Dishes?

To take full advantage of your oven, I recommend more grilled dishes like Bun Thit Nuong, Bo Nuong La Lot, and Bún Chả. Here are my top suggestions for similar Vietnamese dishes:

Are You Ready To Grill Some Chao Tom?

Shaping the shrimp paste for Chao Tom sticks is fun, and grilling it with an oven is a breeze. Even better, the whole process doesn’t take much time: around half an hour or even less. Everything points to Chao Tom being an exciting and convenient dish to add to your meal rotation.

Many chefs and food enthusiasts have been captivated by the rich flavors and innovative presentation of Chao Tom, so let’s join the club! Leave a comment below if you have any questions about this recipe. And please share this post with your friends!

Chao Tom1

Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp (Chạo Tôm)

A delicious and eye-catchy appetizer, Chao Tom is the delight of many big parties in Vietnam. Learn how to make it in your kitchen and discover its appeal yourself!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 492kcal

Ingredients

The Shrimp Paste

  • 500 grams (1.1 pounds) fresh shrimp
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) pork paste
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) pork fat
  • 1 egg
  • 12 small sugarcane sticks
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon soup powder
  • 2 tablespoons scallions and oil garnish
  • 15 grams (0.5 ounce) minced garlic and shallots

The Dipping Sauce

  • 100 ml hot water
  • 75 ml Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 70 grams brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Minced garlic and chili peppers

Others:

  • Vegetables: cucumbers lettuce, Thai basil, Vietnamese balm, beefsteak plant, etc.
  • Starchy sides: rice noodles rice paper

Instructions 

  • Clean the shrimp and let them drain. Dice pork fat into small cubes.
    Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients1
  • Cut each sugarcane stick to a length of 10 centimeters (4 inches) and quarter it lengthwise.
    Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients2
  • Blanch the pork fat in boiling water for 45 – 60 seconds before immersing them in cold water. Sift them out and let them drain.
    Chao Tom Step 1 Prepare Ingredients3
  • Blend the shrimp coarsely in the food processor.
    Chao Tom Step 2 Prepare Shrimp Paste1
  • Mix the shrimp paste, pork paste, pork fat, scallions and oil garnish, minced garlic, minced shallots, an egg, brown sugar, red pepper powder, and soup powder thoroughly in the mixing bowl.
    Chao Tom Step 2 Prepare Shrimp Paste2
  • Put a suitable amount of shrimp paste in the palm of your hand. Place a sugarcane stick on top of it, then close the hand with the shrimp paste tightly.
  • Rotate the stick with your free hand while using the other hand to pat out the shrimp paste and ensure that it covers the stick evenly.
    Chao Tom Step 3 Shape Chao Tom Sticks
  • Repeat the process for the remaining sugarcane sticks.
  • Preheat the oven to 204°C (400°F) for 5 minutes.
  • Arrange the Chao Tom sticks on the tray.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks1
  • Grill at 180°C (356°F) for 10 minutes.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks2
  • Remove the tray from the oven and turn over the sticks.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks3
  • Spray them with oil.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks4
  • And then bake for another 5 minutes.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks5
  • Make the dipping sauce with hot water, Vietnamese fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, minced garlic, and chili peppers.
    Chao Tom Step 4 Grill Chao Tom Sticks6
  • Serve the dish with rice noodles, rice paper, herbs, and the dipping sauce.
    Chao Tom Outro
  • Make a fresh spring roll with a piece of Chao Tom and dip it in the sauce, but you can enjoy Chao Tom in other ways.

Video

Notes

  • The instructions are for preparing 4 servings.
  • You can try cooking Chao Tom with a charcoal grill or an air-fryer.
  • Cook Chao Tom just before serving to keep it hot and crispy.
  • Feel free to adjust the amount of seasoning to suit your preference.
  • Add minced pork to create bigger Chao Tom sticks.
  • You can take optional preparation steps like freezing the shrimp for a short time before blending them, throwing the shrimp paste against the walls of the bowl multiple times, and steaming the Chao Tom sticks for several minutes before grilling them.

Nutrition

Calories: 492kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 284mg | Sodium: 2218mg | Potassium: 513mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 242IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 1mg
Richie

Richie

Content Writer

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Food Styling, Food Photography, Cooking-video Maker, Beverage Evaluation Expert

Education

Saigon Culinary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Program: Diploma in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Vietnamese and Asian cuisines with intensive training and hands-on approach.

Vietnam Australia Vocational School (VAAC), Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Program: Bartender
  • Focus: Basic knowledge on how to store, preserve and select ingredients, and practice cocktails, mocktails, hot and cold drinks.

Richie, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a dynamic Content Writer with a talent for capturing the essence of culinary art.

Richie specializes in creating visually appealing and tasty content, offering a new angle on Vietnamese and other culinary traditions. With a background in graphic design and a love for food styling and photography, he expertly combines beauty with food narratives, encouraging his audience to discover the culinary world through his imaginative perspective.

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