Sugarcane, fresh or canned is needed to make this dish. Shrimp paste can be grilled on skewers too but it is not be called Chao Tom anymore.
Make 4-6 servings as an appetizer in a multiple course meal or 2 serving as main dish
1 lb medium or small Shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 in. (30 cm) piece of fresh sugarcane or a 1 can (20 oz) sugarcane
2 oz pork fat, pork belly or fatty trimmings from pork loin, shoulder or butt
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs minced shallot about 1 medium shallot
1 tsp fish sauce
2 and 1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbs roasted rice powder
4 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 oz extra fine dried rice vermicelli/Banh hoi, cooked
Rice paper sheets (optioanal)
1 head of lettuce red or green
1 small cucumber
12 sprigs cilantro
Mint, basil, Vietnamese perilla, etc.
Nuoc mam cham or Tuong dau phong, recipe is
1. Use a cleaver to peel sugarcane. Cut into 4-in (10 cm) pieces. Quarter each piece lengthwise. Canned sugarcane is small and should be cut in half lengthwise. We need 12 pieces.
2. Mince port fat or pork belly finely. Mix with 1/4 tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp salt. Cool in the refrigerator.
3. Toss shrimp with garlic, shallot, fish sauce, sugar, and ground pepper in a working bowl of the food processor. Put the shrimp mixture bowl in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the chilled shrimp mixture, add pork fat and roasted rice powder. Puree until a sticky resilient paste formed, stop and scrap the bowl down occasional. Cook a little piece in microwave oven or frying to test and adjust seasoning as needed. Refrigerate again in 30 minutes for the flavor develop and help the mixture set.
3. Use a spoon and divide the paste into 12 portion about 2 Tbs each. Line a large plate or small baking tray with a plastic wrap or plastic bag. Lightly moist one hand with oil and spoon a portion of shrimp paste about 2 Tbs onto you oiled palm. Put a piece of sugarcane atop and shape shrimp paste around sugarcane firmly. Leave about 1-in sugarcane exposed at each end. Cover until grill or broil. This recipe can be made and refrigerate 1 day ahead. Prepare the grill to grill or oven to broil.
4. Heating oil in a small saucepan. Stir in green onion and remove from heat.
5. Meanwhile, cook the noodle, make dipping sauce, wash and spin dry lettuce, herbs, cut cucumber like in spring rolls post . We use the extra fine vermicelli here so cooking time will be shorter and we should check after 3 minutes. Before serving, arrange the cooked vermicelli in thin layers on a plate and spread a scant amount of green onion oil over every layer.
6. Grill the shrimp over low heat on well oil surface turn every 2 minutes on each side until golden brown about 6- 8 minutes. Or broil on baking sheet line with oiled foil. Transfer to a platter and garnish with green onion oil.
To serve, each dinner remove the shrimp and wrap it in rice paper like spring rolls or just wrap it with a piece of lettuce, vermicelli, cucumber and herbs, into a tight bundle,dip into sauce, and eat out of hand. One shrimp ball can be cut into trips or rounds and used for two rolls. The remaining sugarcane can be chewed.
Roasted rice powder “Thinh”, using for flavor and binding agent, can be bought at Asian store is a finely light brown powder which is different from rice flour. It can be make by stirring 2-3 Tbs of sticky rice or rice in a small pan over medium heat until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Finely ground with a small, clean grinder or use a mortar and pestle.
There are different extra fine vermicelli. Look for one is made with rice not mung bean or jam starch.