Monday, July 13, 2009

Bánh Hỏi Chạo Tôm (Shrimp Paste on Sugar Cane with Fine Rice Vermicelli)

When I come home, there are dishes my mom makes on a quasi-regular basis, like bánh xèo (Vietnamese savoury crepes) and others that are made by request, like bánh hỏi chạo tôm. Bánh hỏi are fine rice vermicelli noodles, thinner than bún. Chạo tôm is shrimp paste that is grilled around a sugar cane stick. The sugar cane adds another dimension to the shrimp. When I was young, I used to like munching on the sweet sugar cane after I ate the shrimp.

I love shrimp so I really love chạo tôm. It's pure shrimp on a stick and I love the beautiful pink colour of the shrimp. I think it's best eaten at home. Since shrimp is expensive, I think restaurants add filler like ground pork or fish to reduce the cost of making it. If you only use shrimp, the sweetness of the shrimp really comes through. Chạo tôm is traditionally served with thin bánh hỏi and the combination is perfect! I've also served smaller versions of this as an appetizer at parties. They were quite popular!

Chạo Tôm (Shrimp Paste on Sugar Cane) - Makes 16 large ones (about 20 small)
Chạo tôm is easy to make if you have a food processor. If you don't, you really have to mince the shrimp to get the proper "paste" texture. Sugar cane can be purchase canned at Asian grocery stores. You can try to use skewers but I'm not sure it would hold the paste; instead, I would just free form them into patties.

* 1 lb raw shrimp (shelled and deveined)
* 1 tsp garlic powder
* ½ tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tbsp cornstarch
* ⅛ tsp pepper
* sugar canes

Pat down the shrimp with a paper towel to make sure they’re dry.
Place into a food processor with the remaining ingredients (except the sugar cane).
Blend in food processor until it becomes a paste.
You can make a little patty and fry it, to taste and adjust the seasoning if you’d like.
Coat a piece of plastic wrap with a bit of oil so the shrimp mixture doesn’t stick.
Place the plastic wrap on one hand and take a couple of spoonfuls of the shrimp mixture into the plastic wrap.
Stick in a sugar cane stick.
With the plastic wrap, shape the shrimp mixture around the sugar cane.
On an oiled aluminium foil covered sheet, broil until it is brown for 2-3 minutes. Alternately, you can definitely grill these on a BBQ. (Keep an eye on them. Shrimp cooks very quick!)
Turn over and broil the other side.
Serve with bánh hỏi.

Slicing the sugar cane into thinner sticks.

Processing the shrimp into a paste.

Moulding the shrimp around sugar cane.

Broiling Chạo Tôm.

Bánh Hỏi (Fine Rice Vermicelli)
I love bánh hỏi. The fine vermicelli perfectly holds nước chấm (dipping fish sauce). It's more effort to cook because you have to steam it but it's well worth the effort. My mom has been told you can more easily microwave it. We attempted this but failed. I thought the noodles were too dry.

* 1 package fine rice vermicelli
* 1 tbsp tapioca or corn starch
* hành mỡ (scallion oil)

Soak the vermicelli in warm water for 10 minutes.
Drain and let dry for 20 minutes.
Coat vermicelli evenly with cornstarch using a little sieve (so the noodles don't stick together).
Add a thin layer of vermicelli on a flat mesh (we use a splatter guard).
Cover with a lid and steam over a shallow pan of water for about 2 minutes until the vermicelli is cooked.
Brush a plate with hành mỡ and add a layer of the cooked vermicelli.
Brush the vermicelli with hành mỡ and repeat with steaming.
Once, you have a large pile of noodles, cut through the noodles in quarters.
Serve with nước chấm and chạo tôm (another standard is Chinese BBQ pork!).

Draining the noodles and steaming them.

I just need some fish sauce and I'm happy!


EatTravelEat said...

Looks great! I like this dish a lot. Broiling the Chao Tom is a new method from what I have seen. I like all the detailed how to photos :).

Gastronomer said...

I've said it before, and I'll gladly say it again, your mum is a rock star in the kitchen!! Chao tom looks totally doable. I must do!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Awesome! I thought it was only my family who steams our own banh hoi. We use a splatter guard too. :)

RecipeOfTheWeek said...

This is FANTASTIC! I think I might make this tomorrow since I'm staying in and it's raining out! Yum! Soul food!!