Why It Works
- Cooking the shrimp shortly within the decreased braising liquid retains them tender and juicy however nonetheless flavorful.
- The caramel sauce’s mildly bitter observe provides extra dimension to the braise, whereas coconut water brings a nuanced sweetness.
In Vietnamese, hao cơm (roughly translated as “rice splurging,” is a time period that describes a dish so good you retain consuming rice to have extra of it. (Koreans have the same idea for this sort of dish, which they delightfully name a “rice thief.”) Comforting Vietnamese dishes that characteristic a flavorful gravy or deeply savory sauces, like thịt kho (braised pork) or cá kho tộ (claypot braised fish), are sometimes categorized this manner. After I was nonetheless a scholar dwelling in Singapore, I subsisted on huge batches of my mother’s frozen tôm rim (braised shrimp) lugged again all the best way from Vietnam. For a fast meal, I reheated the shrimp, boiled some greens, and served them over rice, which by no means stopped at only one bowl.
Tôm rim (generally spelled tôm ram) belongs to a bigger group of dishes referred to as kho, by which an ingredient (meat, seafood, or sturdy greens like daikon or bitter melon) is simmered in a candy and savory sauce, together with heady aromatics corresponding to shallots, garlic, ginger, or galangal. Kho’s assertive taste comes from fish sauce—or soy sauce for vegetarian dishes—and its mahogany coloration comes from nước màu, a easy caramel sauce produced from sugar and water. In Bến Tre, a province within the Mekong Delta the place my grandparents stay, locals use concentrated coconut water for a similar coloration impact (though cooking down the coconut water to a caramel does take fairly a little bit of time).
As with different beloved consolation meals, there are as some ways to make tôm rim as there are cooks. My model is an amalgamation of recipes from totally different cookbooks and insights from a number of Vietnamese cooks and cooks I spoke to.
When it comes to taste, so long as you might have sugar and fish sauce, you might have a strong basis. Some recipes (together with my mother’s) don’t name for making a caramel sauce. Nevertheless, I discover its mildly bitter observe provides extra dimension to the dish, so spending a number of further minutes is all the time definitely worth the effort (in the event you make pho usually, it’s useful to maintain a jar of it available; Andrea Nguyen has a wonderful recipe for it in her e book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen). As a nod to my Mekong Delta roots, I exploit coconut water for the braising liquid due to its nuanced sweetness, however water may also work. To construct a further layer of taste, I comply with Chef Nini Nguyen’s recommendation and marinate the shrimp in some sugar, salt, garlic, and shallots—the identical aromatics used for the braising liquid.
Sometimes, tôm rim is made with shell-on, head-on shrimp, which you need to strive in the event you stay in an space with entry to stay shrimp. If the shrimp aren’t alive, I discover it safer to go along with headless, as the pinnacle releases an enzyme that makes the shrimp’s physique mushy and imparts an off odor when it’s not contemporary. The feel you get relies on the scale of the shrimp. As they prepare dinner, their shells get coated within the intense caramel sauce; in response to Vy Tran of the meals weblog Beyond Sweet & Savory, smaller shrimp shall be crunchy given their greater shell-to-meat ratio, whereas bigger ones will retain their meaty chunk. I selected to work with medium and enormous shrimp right here, as they’re extra extensively accessible.
In some recipes, the shrimp go into the pan proper at first of the cooking course of to simmer together with the sauce (a mix of water, fish sauce, and caramel) till it thickens. I change the order and solely add them to the braising liquid after it has decreased to an nearly syrupy consistency, which Tran and Chef Tu David Phu counsel will preserve them tender however nonetheless flavorful. For the reason that dish retains effectively and is usually reheated as leftovers, it’s higher to begin it on (juicy, not overcooked) footing.
Personally, I discover tôm rim fairly forgiving, so don’t fear in the event you occur to prepare dinner the shrimp longer than they want (mine take wherever from six to eight minutes). There’s pleasure in biting right into a fresh-off-the-stove shrimp as its juices meld with and season the rice. However with subsequent rounds of reheating, when their meat turns into firmer, you’ll nonetheless relish each morsel coated within the concentrated sweet-salty sauce.
Earlier than serving, Phu recommends letting the dish relaxation for 5 minutes off-heat. “Shrimp is pretty porous and can absorb the marinade,” he says.
With its richness and depth, tôm rim is usually served as a element of a meal, which incorporates greens and soup with a vibrant and contemporary taste for steadiness, together with a bowl of rice (or two or three).