Steamed and Grilled Shrimp Paste with Sugarcane Skewers

Chạo Tom

Preparation info

  • Serves


    as an Entree
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine And Culture In Southern California's Little Saigon

Little Saigon Cookbook

By Ann Le

Published 2011

  • About

Shrimp skewers are a simple treat that have become a Vietnamese family standard. There are many different variations, however, which have evolved through the generations of each family. Here’s my family’s version. The shrimp paste is irresistible when wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dipped into nuoc cham. The sugarcane skewers are deliciously flavored by the shrimp and seasonings and are great for chomping after you’ve consumed the shrimp paste.


  • 5 tablespoons melted pork or bacon fat (or vegetable shortening such as Crisco)
  • 8 clove garlic
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 8 pieces fresh sugarcane
  • ¼ cup oil


    1. In a skillet over high heat, melt the pork or bacon fat. If you have to use salted bacon, omit the salt from the shrimp paste. Set the fat aside to cool before adding it to the shrimp paste. (If you’re using vegetable shortening, you can skip this step.)
    2. In a food processor, mince the garlic and shallots. Set aside in a large bowl.
    3. In the same processor, grind the shrimp with the fish sauce until it is completely processed into a paste. Add the shrimp paste to the garlic and shallots. Add the black pepper, sugar, salt, and rice flour. Blend together with a wooden spoon.
    4. Add the cooled, softened solid pork fat (or vegetable shortening) to the fish paste and blend in completely. Refrigerate for a half hour so the paste cools and stiffens. The addition of the fat will make the shrimp paste congeal and hold its shape around the skewers.
    5. Cut the sugarcane pieces into 5-inch lengths. They should be approximately ½ inch wide, the girth of five or six standard stick skewers.
    6. Wipe or spray a large baking sheet with vegetable or olive oil. The sheet should be well oiled so the shrimp paste does not stick.
    7. Once the shrimp paste has cooled, wash and dry your hands. Scoop about 6 tablespoons of the paste into your hands and wrap the paste around a skewer in an oblong, rough shape, leaving about ¾ inch uncovered on each end. Place the skewer on the oiled baking sheet. Continue shaping the paste around the skewers until all the paste is used.
    8. To cook the shrimp, begin by preparing a steamer. Make sure the bottom of the steamer is well oiled so the shrimp paste does not stick. Place the skewers in the steamer, providing some space between them. Do not pile them on top of one another. Steam the skewers for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp paste turns pink. Remove the skewers and set aside. If you wish, you can freeze the shrimp skewers at this point. They will need to be defrosted before you grill them.
    9. When you’re ready to eat, grill the shrimp skewers until they are slightly charred. Or you can slightly fry the shrimp skewers in light oil in a hot skillet.
    10. Serve as a meal over bun or steamed rice, a salad platter, and nuoc cham. As an appetizer, serve with just nuoc cham.