New Recipes

Caramel Shrimp (Vietnamese Tom Rim)


Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp (Tom Rim)

Source: Houston Wok


1 lb fresh water prawn or shrimp (shell-on and head-on)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
1 bunches of scallion
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Add all of the above ingredients in a mixing bowl and allow to marinate.

Caramel Sauce:

2 soup spoons of cooking oil, we use canola
2 tablespoons of sugar


In a wok or small pan, add 2 soup spoons of cooking oil and allow the oil to get hot. Add the sugar and with a spatula stir the sugar in oil so that the caramel sauce is not congested into a clump. Once the sugar and oil take on a caramel color, set aside.

In a wok or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and add the prawn and saute them for 2 minutes. Add the caramel sauce and with your spatula saute everything together until the prawn turns pink all around and the juices have seem to have been sucked up by the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Catherine Thai of Cat Restaurant in Little Saigon also provided me with her award-winning caramel shrimp recipe. Here you go.

Caramelized Spotted Prawns in Clay Pot

6 to 8 large spotted prawns, peeled, deveined, head in tact.  Use the shells to make some shrimp stock (optional)
1 tablespoon oil (I use canola)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoon fish sauce (depending on the brand of fish sauce and your taste)
1 teaspoon caramel sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Black pepper, to taste
2 scallions, chopped

Caramel Sauce:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water


To make the caramel sauce, put sugar in a small pan, spread to an even layer. Cook at medium heat (without stirring) until the sugar starts melting. Now, you can start stirring the sugar and keep cooking until this turns into a dark amber color. Turn off heat. Note that the sugar will continue to turn a darker color. Wait for about 30 seconds to one minute before adding the 2 tablespoons of water. Be careful as this will splatter. Turn the heat back on and cook at low heat until the caramel dissolves.

Put the shells in a small pan and add a few tablespoons of water. Boil for a few minutes at high heat then discard the shells. Continue boiling to reduce the stock to about one tablespoon.

Heat oil in a wok at high heat.  Add shallot and garlic; sauté until fragrant. Add the shrimp and brown quickly.  Add the stock, fish sauce, caramel sauce, salt, and sugar. Cook until the shrimp is done and the sauce thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the scallions, stir, and turn off heat. Sprinkle on some black pepper and serve with steamed rice.

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25 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Hello, hello! =)

    Your tom rim looks yummy! How I make this dish is slightly different than yours. I usually make the caramel and keep it in the fridge for whenever I need to use it, it’s there. I add a little salt, some sugar, some garlic, some mushroom powder instead of msg, and red chili pepper for some spiciness. All these ingredients can be used on chicken as well, for ga ru ti.

    Have a great evening!

  2. Shanti

    So happy I could be a part of this scrumptious Shrimp adventure. My favorite part were the heads filled with fatty goodness that went so well like butter, with the sweet and black-peppery sauce. So easy! A must try at home!

  3. Mama Geri

    This is my first day to enjoy your blog and finding madeleines and shrimp recipes made my day perfect. The photography is terrific and makes my mouth water for everything I see. I can’t wait to try these recipes. I have one request do you have a special “garlic Shrimp” recipe in a brown sauce. In most Asian restaurants I go to feature this dish and it’s my #1 choice from the menu. I would like to try making it at home.

  4. Sher

    what do you mean by soup spoon? Are you refering to the chinese soup spoon because I tried to make this dish and the sugar stayed separated from the oil. The sugar caramelized on it’s own and as soon as there was not heat, it hardened. What’s the sauce supposed to look like?

    • Cici

      exact same thing happened to my sugar oil sauce… forget about putting it in d fridge for future caramel sauce.. d sugar hardened like a rock with oil on top of it.. right?

  5. Joe

    Made the 2nd recipe. Was never any good at making candy, so I was afraid of the caramel sauce preparation, but it was easy. As described, adding the water hardened up the sugar and crackled and popped, but eventually it dissolved into the water. I also wasn’t sure if it needed to stay warm as I prepared the rest of the recipe. It doesn’t.

    Just wondering – only 1 tsp of the caramel sauce goes in the recipe, after making the sauce with 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water? I only did the 1 tsp, and now feel like it could have used more.

    Also, if I were going to do it again, I think I’d drop the shrimp in there maybe 3 minutes before the end, and if not serving all of it immediately, get the remainder out of the wok quickly! I had a bunch of large fresh shrimp that ended up pretty rubbery. Oh well…

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