Chao Tom consists of flavorful shrimp mousse wrapped around lemongrass or sugarcane sticks. It is a tasty appetizer for daily meals as well as parties.
What is Chao Tom
Chạo Tôm features flavorful shrimp mousse, which is bouncy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The mousse is often wrapped around a sugarcane or lemongrass stick and then fried until golden. I call it shrimp on sticks but it can also be called Vietnamese shrimp on sugarcane (or shrimp on lemongrass).
Some sources say this dish originated from the Central region of Vietnam while some say it is a native Southern Vietnamese dish. It is also popular in the North, especially as an appetizer in wedding banquets. You can see it’s really easy to cook chao tom in the video below.
Watch the Video
The star of this dish is obviously the shrimps. The fresher they are, the tastier the dish will be. To make the dish flavorful, we will also need typical Vietnamese aromatics and seasonings such as garlic, shallot, ginger, fish sauce and black pepper. Everything will be processed into a shrimp paste in a food processor.
One important thing to note here is that the shrimps should be very cold throughout the process so that the texture will turn out right. I recommend putting them in a freezer for about 20 minutes before placing them in your food processor.
Some people like to add some pork paste to the mixture for a chewier texture. I’m not really a fan of it since I feel that it reduces the overall sweetness of the mixture.
I personally prefer using lemongrass sticks to make chao tom since sugarcane is much harder to find. More importantly, the shrimp mousse will be infused with a very pleasant and subtle lemongrass fragrance after cooking.
How to Make Chao Tom
First, prepare the lemongrass by cutting it into 4 1/2-inch sticks. Make a few slits along the sticks to make it easier to release the lemongrass aroma. If you can find sugarcane, feel free to use it instead of lemongrass. Then make the shrimp mousse, which is super easy with a food processor. Wrap the top parts of the sticks with the paste.
The second step is cooking the shrimp skewers. Traditionally, they will be steamed for 5-6 minutes and then fried until golden. I find it totally fine to fry them right away. You can even put them on the grill. In the photo below, the fried sticks are on the lower plate and the grilled ones are on the upper plate.
How to Serve Chao Tom
There are several ways to serve Vietnamese sugarcane shrimp:
- serve them as an appetizer with some sriracha or Thai sweet chili sauce on the side and some lettuce and fresh herbs
- serve with Vietnamese nuoc cham dressing, some rice vermicelli noodles (bún or bánh hỏi), lettuce and herbs
- use rice paper wrappers to make fresh spring rolls with the shrimp mousse, vermicelli noodles, lettuce and herbs
My other favorite shrimp recipes:
I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Vietnamese Shrimp on Sticks (Chao Tom)
- 10-12 oz peeled and deveined shrimp
- 6-7 lemongrass stalks
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or finely minced shallot
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or finely minced ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (plus more for greasing and frying)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Make sure the shrimps are very cold. If you have time, put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
- Cut lemongrass stalks into 4 to 4 1/2-inch sticks. If the outer layer is dry, peel it off. Make a few slits along the lemongrass to make it easier to release the aroma. You can watch the video in the post to see how to do this step.
- Add shrimps to the bowl of a food processor. Also add garlic, shallot and ginger. Pulse a few times until shrimps are coarsely chopped.
- Add salt, black pepper, fish sauce, olive oil and cornstarch to the food processor bowl and process until smooth.
- Check if the shrimp mousse is still cold. If not, chill in the refrigerator. Use a spoon to mix the paste a few times. Very lightly oil your hand and use a tablespoon (or slightly more) of shrimp mousse to wrap around the top part of each lemongrass stick.
- Place a fry pan with a generous amount of oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add shrimp sticks and fry until golden. You can also grill them.
- Serve hot with sriracha sauce (or Vietnamese nuoc cham dressing or Thai chili sauce), lettuce and fresh herbs. You can also add some rice vermicelli noodles to the serving plate.