Caramel Shrimp with Black Pepper and Garlic

Tôm Kho


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 6

    servings as part of a multi-dish meal

Appears in

Southeast Asian Flavors: Adventures in Cooking the Foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Singapore

Southeast Asian Flavors

By Robert Danhi

Published 2008

  • About

Kho, a term used for stews flavored with the deep brown caramel sauce acquires an alluring color from that cooked sugar sauce. Although such stews are often prepared with river fish, or pork, I prefer shrimp.

Cẩm Vân Nguyễn, a Vietnamese celebrity chef, spent a day with me in her newly built cooking school in Saigon, teaching me recipes. This was one of them. In preparation for our lessons, her charming son Khải took me on the back of his scooter for an all-morning shopping trip for ingredients.


  • ¼ lb. (113 g.) Pork belly or shoulder, small bite-size slices, about inch (0.3 cm.) thick
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Thai Bird Chili, minced
  • 2 tbsp. Fish sauce (nước mắm)
  • 2 tsp. Granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
  • ¼ tsp. Coarsely Ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Water
  • 1 lb. (454 g.) Medium shrimp, split down back and deveined with shell on
  • ¼ cup Chopped scallions


  1. In a dry 2-quart (2 L.) pan over medium heat, cook pork, stirring often until it browns lightly and a few tablespoons of fat renders out, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chilies; cook until aromatic, 30 seconds. Add fish sauce, sugar, caramel sauce, black pepper and water; bring to a boil. Add shrimp, toss to coat with sauce. Arrange them snugly. Cover, and place over low heat to simmer 3 minutes.
  2. Remove cover; stir shrimp. Sauce should only come up about a half to three-quarters of the way up shrimp and be slightly thick. (If shrimp are fully cooked and sauce is too thin, transfer shrimp to serving bowl, cover to keep warm, and boil sauce rapidly to reduce and thicken; toss shrimp in reduced sauce.)
  3. When sauce is the proper consistency, add the scallions, turn off heat, re-cover, and let rest for 30 seconds. Serve with steamed white rice.