Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Shrimp Mousse on Sugarcane (Chạo tôm)...

I love this fun popular Vietnamese dish resembling pogo sticks that originated from Binh Thuan in Southeast of Vietnam. Served as a tasty appetizer, quick snack or part of an entrée with rice or in a vermicelli noodle bowl, its light, fluffy and mellow shrimp flavour is deliciously inviting. With just a few ingredients and a food processor, you are on your way to shrimp mousse heaven. The sugarcane that the shrimp paste is encased around is a unique and edible skewer which you can enjoy afterwards by chewing and sucking out its sweet juice, leaving its fibrous body for discard. Working with fresh sugarcane is tough, so feel free to use canned sugarcane or change it up by using lemongrass stems. These could also be cooked over a hot grill, so let this be the showstopper at your next barbecue cook-out or soirée.

Shrimp Mousse on Sugarcane (Chạo tôm)
Makes 16 sticks

600 g shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
100 g ground pork (go for medium or look for lots of fat in its meat)-- pure pork fat is typically used.
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
dashes of ground black pepper
4 pieces of peeled sugarcane, quartered lengthwise (use canned or fresh-- see below)
cooking oil for frying
Nước mắm cham (see below)

NOTE: To make Nước mắm cham: i) Dissolve 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 1/3 cup boiling water; ii) Mix in 3 Tbsp. fish sauce and 3 Tbsp. white vinegar or fresh lime juice; leave to cool; iii) To season, add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 tsp. of Vietnamese chili sauce (sambal oelek) or 1 finely chopped Thai or hot red chili to taste.

Mix shelled and deveined shrimps with 1/2 Tbsp. salt and 1 cup cold water; let sit for a few minutes. This will allow the shrimps' impurities to be released (the water will turn grey and slightly foamy). Rinse with cold water until water runs clear.

Place the shrimps, garlic and green onions in a food processor and blend to a paste. I had some fresh dill and added a small bunch of sprigs for a twist (seafood and dill goes so well together) along with the pork, fish sauce, sugar and pepper and blend until all the ingredients are combined and a sticky paste is formed. Using a spatula, remove all the paste into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Important NOTE: Try to remove as much of the shrimp paste, so not to waste and as well it gets stuck on the blades and in the nooks of the food processor. Ensure proper soaping and rinsing, otherwise it will leave a lingering fish odour. I will never forget putting away my "washed" food processor in the back of a cupboard only to be confronted with the most putrid smell when I opened its lid to use. If you think you've washed it clean, give it another rinse or better yet stick it in dishwasher but only after you've given it a good wash first.

Divide the shrimp mixture into 16 portions. Scoop a portion into your hand, moistened with water (otherwise, it will be a sticky mess); mould the mixture into a log-shape. Insert a sugarcane stick in its centre, taking care to seal the edges properly. Place on oiled plate and continue with remaining portions.

To Prepare Fresh Sugarcane: Hold the section of sugarcane upright with the knife near the edge. As it gives way, 
strip down with the knife and repeat until the skin is entirely removed. For tougher stalks you may need a cleaver. 
Hold the sugarcane upright again and chop it down the centre. Lay flat then chop again into quarter-length sections.

Heat 1/2-inch of oil in fry pan or skillet. Fry the skewers over high heat for five minutes, turning them regularly, until cooked and lightly golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with Nước mắm cham.

"Shrimp drumsticks... we love them mom!" Its a filling yummy protein snack before soccer!

Love its fluffy texture and subtle flavours. So satisfying!

Offering two stages of eating, first savour the delectable fried shrimp mousse and then, chew and suck the juice out of the fibrous sugarcane stick... repeat with round two and three!

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