Vietnamese prawns on sugar cane (Chao tom)


Prep time
Less then 30 minutes
Cooking time
Less then 10 minutes


  • 500g / 1lb 2oz raw prawns, peeled and cleaned
  • 50g / 2oz pork fat (or use streaky bacon)
  • 100g / 3 ½ oz dried shrimp, soaked for an hour in hot water
  • 50g / 2oz shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce, plus extra for dipping
  • 1/2 chilli, finely chopped, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 sticks sugar cane (available in some Asian and Caribbean speciality shops)
  • black and white sesame seeds, for coating
  • groundnut oil, for deep frying
  • salad leaves, to serve


  1. Place the prawns and pork fat in a food processor and blend to a paste.

  2. Add the dried shrimp, shallot, fish sauce, chilli and black pepper to the mixture and blend again.

  3. Cut the sugar cane into sticks the size of lolly sticks. Wet your hands and mould a ball of the mixture around the broad end of the cane. Smooth it, so it looks like an egg-shaped lolly. Roll the mixture roughly in the sesame seeds.

  4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. It is ready when a breadcrumb that is dropped in will sizzle gently in it. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)

  5. Deep fry the prawn sticks in the oil for about 5 minutes or until coloured. If possible finish them off over a charcoal fire or grill to crisp up.

  6. Serve on a bed of crisp salad leaves using more fish sauce as a dipping sauce.

  7. The sugar cane can be chewed at the end to extract the juice.