Chả Tôm (Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane)

From Ching Li

2013 Nov/Dec

Sugarcane is a real treat when you can get it fresh. Most often it is found ready to eat in cans at Asian supermarkets. The labour-intensive part of peeling the bark from the bamboo-like stalk has been done. Now it is up to you to extract the juices. It’s hard to eat sugarcane elegantly because it’s very fibrous and needs to be chewed until the juice is gone and the pith is left to discard. In this recipe, the sugarcane is used as a skewer, and after the shrimp is removed, you can chew on the stick for some sweet sugarcane juice.


  • 1 lb. tiger prawns, shelled
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 340 g can of sugar cane (available at Asian markets)


Add prawns, garlic, egg, cornstarch, salt, pepper and olive oil into a food processor and blend well. Drain the sugar cane and cut it into thin sticks, between 1/4- to 1/2-inch in diameter.

Fill a bowl with water. Wet one hand and use the free hand to put about 3 T. of the prawn paste in the palm of your hand, spreading it out into a circle about 2-1/2 inches wide and a good 1/4-inch thick. Center a sugarcane stick on top of the paste (covering one half of the stick), then close your hand to make the paste adhere to the stick and surround it. Hold on to the sugarcane stick with your dry hand and turn the stick, all the while patting the paste with the wet hand to smooth out the surface. Set on a baking tray and repeat with the rest of the prawn paste.

Preheat a grill to medium-high. Rub some oil over each shrimp portion of each stick to prevent sticking. Grill the shrimp sticks for about 6 to 8 minutes, turning frequently, until the paste is sizzling and getting brown. You may also bake them in the oven at 300°F. for about 8 minutes. Serve with lettuce, vermicelli and dipping sauce.

 Serves 4.