Vietnamese-Style Caramel Shrimp

serves 4

Start to finish: 25min

This recipe is from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Cookish. It was really quick to throw together and the flavors were a tantalizing blend of ginger, garlic, lemon-grass and caramel. I served with jasmine rice and baby bok choy sautéed in roasted peanut oil and fresh ginger. The sauce is delicious, so definitely serve with rice so that you can soak it up.

This was my first time cooking with lemon grass ever and I had to google what it means to “bruise” it. Like “spanking” mint before using it in a cocktail, you spank the lemon grass with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.

The recipe says that you can apply this recipe to pork, chicken, or fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout)


  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 3 TBL fish sauce
  • 1 or 2 fresno OR serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into rings I nearly died slicing the serranos into rings after just stemming them, the spice got in the air and into my lungs. Usually recipes say stem and remove seeds, so I tasted one ring with the seeds to see how spicy it was, and it was spicy. I decided to remove the seeds from the rings and used about 1½ serranos. I probably could have used all the serranos, but definitely not with the seeds!
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced OR 4 medium garlic cloves, minced OR use both use both!
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger OR 1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, bruised OR both use both!
  • ground black pepper
  • pounds extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • [optional garnish] sliced scallions OR lime wedges OR both use both!
  • serve with jasmine rice along with a steamed vegetable, or sautéed baby bok choy in roasted peanut oil and fresh ginger


  • In a 12-inch skillet, combine the sugar and 2 TBL water the size skillet will actually make a difference in this step
  • Cook over medium-high, occasionally swirling the pan, until the caramel is mahogany in color and smokes lightly, ~5 minutes
  • Off heat, add the fish sauce.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any crystallized sugar clumps
  • Add the chilies, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and ½ tsp pepper
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds
  • Add the shrimp and cook over high, stirring, just until opaque
  • Remove from heat and discard the lemon grass, if used.
  • [optional] garnish with sliced scallions and/or lime wedges
Recommended products
Here’s a link for ordering Cookish on Amazon.
I use roasted peanut oil for the bok choy. The brand of roasted peanut oil that I had been using forever, stopped production during COVID. I discovered this brand on Amazon; it has a five star rating from over 900 consumers.
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