I’d never tried Vietnamese food before I came to the United States. There was no Vietnamese restaurant in my hometown and Vietnamese cuisine had never crossed my mind. Then, Thai food was the only exotic food I knew.
I first tasted Vietnamese food when I was attending graduate school in the Midwest. Stuck in the middle-of-no-where AKA Fargoland, Vietnamese food was a treat to my taste buds. I loved the familiar southeast Asian flavors: the noodle dishes, the steaming hot pho, the rice plates, the fresh bean sprouts, herbs, mint leaves, and oh yeah, fish sauce. Vietnamese food reminded me of the tastes of home–well, not quite, but they were close. It was comfort food back then and I gradually fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine.
Chao tom, or Vietnamese sugar cane shrimp is one of the appetizer dishes that I absolutely adore. While I always order them at restaurants, I have never attempted to make chao tom at home until recently. I got myself some fresh sugar cane and adapted my recipe of tau hu ky (shrimp paste with bean curd skin) and deep-fried them. (The traditional way of making sugar cane shrimp or chao tom is grilling.)
The sweet thing about making these chao tom (sugar cane shrimp) at home was that I could wrap as much shrimp paste around the sugar cane as possible, so every bite was a mouthful of delicious and springy shrimp paste. Yum!