Prep 45 mins
Cook 0 mins
Adapted from "Vietnamese Home Cooking," by Charles Phan. This recipe will work without shrimp heads, but Phan says the heads add richness to the sauce. The recipe also calls for homemade roasted chile paste (there's a recipe in the book), but if you buy it look for jars labeled chile-bean or saté paste, preferably without preservatives. Phan adds that in a pinch you can make the recipe without the chile paste. Serve with steamed white rice.
Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
- 2 lbs light brown palm sugar, chopped into pieces
- 2 1⁄2 cups fish sauce
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
- 2 Thai chiles, stemmed and halved on the diagonal
- 1⁄4 cup finely minced lemongrass
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 inches by 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely julienned
- 1 tablespoon roasted chili paste
- 2 teaspoons roasted chili paste
- 1⁄2 cup caramel sauce (see recipe)
- 1⁄4 cup low sodium chicken broth or 1⁄4 cup water
- Make the Caramel Sauce: In a heavy-bottom 4-quart pot, gently melt the sugar over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Do not be tempted to rush the process or you may scorch the sugar.
- When the sugar is lump free, completely melted and just beginning to boil, remove the pan from the heat and very slowly pour in the fish sauce while stirring constantly. Be careful, as it will bubble furiously.
- Use the sauce right away or let cool completely, transfer to an airtight container, and store in a cool cupboard for up to 3 months.
- Shrimp: Set the heads aside. Peel each shrimp body, removing the tail segments, then devein. Sprinkle bodies with the pepper; set aside.
- Pour the oil into a 2-quart clay pot or high-sided skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, chiles and reserved shrimp heads and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and chile paste; cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Add the caramel sauce and stock; stir to combine.
- Add the shrimp bodies, and toss to coat with the aromatic ingredients. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes, until the shrimp are bright pink.
- Serve directly from the clay pot, accompanied by steamed white rice.