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Sugar cane wrapped with fried shrimp paste on a banana leaf and wooden board with a plate of woven rice noodles
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5 from 5 votes

Chao Tom (Sugar Cane Shrimp)

Vietnamese Chao Tom is EXACTLY what I'd serve at parties all season long. These fun appetizers are packed with fried aromatics and a simple but delicious way to impress any crowd!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Vietnamese
Servings: 6
Calories: 234kcal
Author: Jeannette


  • Food processor


For the Prawn Paste

  • 700 g / 1.5 lb peeled frozen prawns
  • 200 g / 0.44 lb pork paste (giò sống)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • sugar cane
  • 2 egg yolks (for the glaze)
  • cooking oil (for frying)

The Aromatics

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 bulbs red shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass, minced
  • 1 chili, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil


  • Wash the frozen prawns in cool water. When thawed, drain them in a colander.
  • Place the prawns on a cloth to dry and pat the moisture away using paper towels. You want each one to be free from any liquid.
  • Put the shrimp in a ziplock bag along with the pepper, chicken bouillon powder, fish sauce, salt and sugar.
  • Use a meat mallet (or any tool you have on hand) to pound the shrimp for 3 minutes, then set aside.
  • Heat up a pan with the oil and brown the lemongrass, chili, spring onion, purple shallots and garlic.
  • In a food processor, add the fried aromatics, shrimp and pork paste along with the baking soda and potato starch then blitz the contents until it forms a smooth paste.
  • Line a flat dish with banana leaf and wrap roughly 1/2 US cup paste around the sugar cane.
    Tip: Wearing gloves and coating it in a light layer of oil will stop the mixture from sticking. To make the surface smooth, roll the sugar cane in the palm of your hand.
  • Set up a steamer on high heat and steam for 5 minutes or until cooked.
  • Turn off the heat then lightly brush egg yolks on the steamed chao tom and let it rest in the steamer for 1 minute. This step will allow the yolk to form a glaze over the meat without overcooking.
  • Set up a deep frying station and cook the chao tom for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve immediately with bánh hỏi (Vietnamese woven rice noodles) and fresh herbs!


  • Cook the chao tom just before serving. The longer you let it sit, the more it will begin to shrivel and shrink.
  • Don't overcrowd the frying pot. Deep fry a few at a time so the oil temperature doesn't dip too low. You want them to be golden as quickly as possible to avoid a dry chao tom!
  • Use a pot or pan large enough for the shrimp paste not to touch. This is vital for a consistent brown coating.
  • For extra flavor, we use pre-prepared pork paste (giò sống) from the frozen section of our local Asian grocery store. If that's not available, substitute it with shrimp instead.
  • The banana leaf can also be found in the freezer at your Asian supermarket.
  • Sugarcane can be bought fresh or in tins with syrup. They will be in aisles with other tinned products from Asian grocers.


Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 359mg | Sodium: 1765mg | Potassium: 147mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 178IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 181mg | Iron: 3mg