Barbecued Shrimp Paste on Sugar Cane (Chao Tom)

Serving Size: 4-6

1 tb Roasted rice powder
Scallion oil
Crisp-fried shallots
1 tb Roasted peanuts, ground
1 lb Raw shrimp in the shell
1 tb Salt
6 Garlic cloves, crushed
6 Shallots, crushed
2 Ounces rock sugar, crushed-to a powder, or
1 tb Granulated sugar
4 Ounces pork fat
4 ts Nuoc mam
Freshly ground black pepper
Peanut Sauce
Vegetable Platter
8 oz 6 1/2-inch rice-paper rounds (banh trang)
12 Piece fresh sugar cane, or
12 oz Sugar cane packed in light-syrup, drained
12 8-1/2 ea inch bamboo skewer-soaked in water for 30 minutes
Vegetable oil, for shaping shrimp paste
8 oz extra-thin rice vermicelli
  • The allied recipes for this rather complex operation follow in the next post. Although this dish can be baked in an oven, I strongly suggest you grill it over charcoal, for the result is far superior. The dish may be prepared over 2 consecutive days. On day one, prepare the dipping sauce and condiments. The Vegetable Platter and shrimp paste can be assembled the following day. Fresh sugar cane may be obtained at Caribbean markets; canned sugar cane is available at Asian grocery stores. Prepare the roasted rice powder, scallion oil, crisp-fried shallots and roasted peanuts. Set aside. Shell and devein the shrimp. Sprinkle the salt over the shrimp and let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse the shrimp thoroughly with cold water. Drain and squeeze between your hands to remove excess water. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Coarsely chop the shrimp. Boil the pork fat for 10 minutes. Drain and finely dice. In a food processor, combine the shrimp, garlic, shallots and sugar. Process until the shrimp paste pulls away from the sides of the container, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides. The paste should be very fine and sticky. Add the pork fat, roasted rice powder, fish sauce and black pepper to taste to the processor. Pulse briefly, only enough to blend all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. Meanwhile, prepare the Peanut Sauce and Vegetable Platter. Cover the rice papers with a damp towel and a sheet of plastic wrap; keep at room temperature until needed. Peel the fresh sugar cane; cut crosswise into 4-inch sections. Split each section lengthwise into quarters. (if using canned sugar cane, split each section lengthwise in half only, then thread 2 pieces lengthwise onto a skewer.) Pour about 1/4 cup of oil into a small bowl. Oil your fingers. Pick up and mold about 2 tablespoons of the shrimp paste around and halfway down a piece of fresh sugar cane. Leave about 1 1/2 inches of the sugar cane exposed to serve as a handle. (If using canned sugar cane, there is no need to leave a handle. The skewers will serve as handles.) Press firmly so that the paste adheres to the cane. Proceed until you have used all the shrimp paste. Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat the oven to broil. Meanwhile, steam the noodles, then garnish with the scallion oil, crisp-fried shallots and ground roasted peanuts. Keep warm. Pour the peanut sauce into individual bowls and place the Vegetable Platter and rice papers on the table. Grill the shrimp paste on the sugar cane over medium coals, turning frequently. Or Broil, on a baking sheet lined with foil, under the broiler, about 6 inches from the heat, for 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a warm platter. To serve, each diner dips a rice paper round in a bowl of warm water to make it pliable, then places the paper on a dinner plate. Different ingredients from the Vegetable Platter, some noodles and a piece of the shrimp paste, which has been removed from the sugar cane, are added. The rice paper is then roiled up to form a neat package. The roll is dipped in the Peanut Sauce and eaten out of hand. The remaining sugar cane may be chewed. Note: If both types of sugar cane are unavailable, use skewers. Shape the shrimp paste into meatballs and thread 3 or 4 on each skewer. Yield: 4 to 6 servings..
From "The Foods of Vietnam" by Nicole Rauthier. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 1989. Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; May 24 1993

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