Large shrimp are quickly sautéed with garlic and onions and then simmered in a traditional Vietnamese caramel sauce made from fish sauce, brown sugar, scallions, and cilantro. The key ingredient is fish sauce, a dark and pungent liquid used in Southeast Asian cooking. I know it doesn’t sound or smell that appetising but have faith: when paired with the right ingredients, it adds wonderful depth and complexity to a dish. You can it at most large grocery stores, Whole Foods, or Asian grocers. And don’t worry about buying a large bottle. It keeps forever in the pantry.
- 60 ml fish sauce
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 120 ml water
- 60 ml vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 kg extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 45 gms chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine the fish sauce, dark brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and water in a medium bowl and whisk until brown sugar is dissolved.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Do not brown.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are just barely pink and still translucent in spots, a few minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture, turn heat down to medium, and simmer until shrimp are cooked through, a few minutes more. (Note: the sauce will be thin.) Off the heat, stir in scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.