The classic Vietnamese method of cooking pork, chicken or fatty fish in a savory-sweet caramel sauce produces deep, umami-rich flavors. In this recipe, we apply the technique to shrimp. We liked the dish when made with both shallots and garlic, as well as with ginger and lemon grass, so use all those ingredients if you have them on hand. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and a stir-fried vegetable to round out the meal.

Start to finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

—Courtney Hill


  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 or 2 Fresno OR serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced OR 4 medium garlic cloves, minced OR both
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger OR 1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, bruised OR both
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1½ pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined

In a 12-inch skillet, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium-high, occasionally swirling the pan, until the caramel is mahogany in color and smokes lightly. Off heat, add the fish sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any clumps, then add the chilies, shallots, ginger and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and cook over high, stirring, just until opaque. Remove and discard the lemon grass, if used.

Optional garnish: Sliced scallions OR lime wedges OR both.

From Cookish: Throw It Together by Christopher Kimball