Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp

3 stars based on 1 votes

vietnamese-caramel-shrimp

This recipe for Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp was sent to me by one of my readers from San Diego — thank you, Kim! I took one look at it and knew it was going to be a winner. 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. Every time I make it, my family literally scrapes the pan clean. 

Kim from San Diego

The key ingredient in the dish is fish sauce, a dark and pungent liquid used in Southeast Asian cooking.  I know it doesn’t sound or smell appetizing but have faith — when paired with the right ingredients, it adds wonderful depth and complexity to a dish. You can it at Whole Foods, Asian markets and many large grocery store chains. If possible, buy a brand imported from Thailand or Vietnam.

As with any stir-fry, it’s best to have all your ingredients chopped and prepped before you start cooking.

Begin by combining the fish sauce, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and water in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan and cook the onions over medium-low heat until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.



Add the shrimp to the pan and cook until just pink and still translucent in some spots.

Add the sauce and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through.

Toss in the scallions and cilantro, and serve.

The dish is intensely flavorful, so it goes best with steamed jasmine rice.  Enjoy!

Vietnamese Caramelized Shrimp

Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Combine the fish sauce, dark brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and water in a medium bowl and whisk until brown sugar is dissolved.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Reviews & Comments

  • 3 stars

    Hi Jenn, love your blog. This was the first recipe that was just “ok” for me. I followed your instructions and measurements to a T even using the same brand of fish sauce but mine came out quite salty. The saltiness overshadowed the brown sugar and other flavors, so for me I think I am going to cut the fish sauce by one tablespoon and add an additional teaspoon of sugar. That said, you have fantastic recipes and a great site but for me this one was a bit too savory. Best wishes, Joanne

    - Joanne P on September 18, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Joanne, Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry you found the dish to be too salty. That’s the first I’ve heard that about this particular dish so I’m scratching my head a bit. Do you remember what type/brand of shrimp you used? I did a little research and found this article on why some shrimp are saltier than others, and was actually really surprised at the range of sodium levels for different types of shrimp (97mg for fresh Gulf shrimp to 730mg for easy peel farm raised shrimp).

      http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/salt-in-foods/salt-supermarket

      - Jenn on September 19, 2014 Reply
      • Hi Jenn,
        Thanks for responding! I used the Kirkland Signature Raw Tail-On shrimp from Costco, which has 280 mg of sodium per 4 oz. Perhaps that contributed? I haven’t noticed any saltiness before. Food for thought…

        - Joanne P on September 19, 2014 Reply
  • Made this a few moments ago, it was fantastic! i served with fried rice and steamed vegetable dumplings

    - Josh on September 22, 2013 Reply
  • I made these last night. I used a combination of prawns and jumbo shrimp, just put the prawns in first, let them cook for about one minute then added the shrimp. Took it to a party and it was a total hit!

    - Phoebe on June 23, 2013 Reply
  • Great recipe – even better cold as part of a summer salads meal. Thanks!

    - Dianne on May 17, 2013 Reply
  • Have made this a few times and always a hit – we have even added broccoli- yum! And, yes, equally delicious 2nd day straight out of the fridge!

    - Meredith on January 29, 2013 Reply
  • Awesome, Thank you Kim for sharing and you too Jenn for posting! Very quick and easy to prepare.

    - Bob C on September 18, 2012 Reply
  • I don’t think I’ll ever be able to overcome the worlds love of sugar. But I made this w/o the brown sugar, going against Asian grain of something sweet, salty, and hot and enjoyed it much more. The recipe has a great balance of all the other flavors.

    - Tom T on September 8, 2012 Reply
  • This is one of my favorite recipes on the site.
    It’s an honest, clean & simple meal. I follow it exactly as it’s so easy and the ingredient list is not lengthy.
    I use the frozen tailed and shelled shrimp from the freezer section and just thaw – so it’s even easier.
    I tend to have extra bags of shrimp in the freezer, so if I’m at a loss of what to make for dinner, this is a go-to as I normally have all the ingredients!

    - CareyS on June 20, 2012 Reply
  • We really enjoy trying new recipes, especially ethnic recipes. Can sometimes be intimidating using ingredients that are unfamiliar, like fish sauce, but the end result is usually so rewarding! This is one of those very rewarding recipes :o)

    - Cherie on May 21, 2012 Reply
  • I will definitely be trying this in my near future.

    - Shelley Thomas on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • looks so good! can’t wait to try it.

    - cap on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • This was amazing! Don’t be intimated by this dish -super easy and delish!

    - Sara on May 3, 2012 Reply
  • Quick to ix and delicious. Have made several times with great reviews.

    - Sheila on March 3, 2012 Reply
  • Glad to see so many positive reviews for this dish. Thanks, Jenn, for posting my recipe! :)

    - Kim on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • Making this for the third time for dinner tonight and I can’t wait!

    - Gillian on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • A delicious delicious recipe (repetition on purpose) especially for those of us who have access to fresh (!) shrimp.

    - Beth on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I´m a fan of anything with garlic and shrimp, but the extra flavours of the salty fish sauce, chilis and touch of sugar makes this a hit. Thanks for putting it up.

    - mary on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I made this last night with jasmine rice and it was delicious. One side note however, I reduced the amount of shrimp to just under a pound, but didn’t reduce the liquid amount, so the shrimps were more poached than carmelized. Also used light brown sugar as i didn’t have dark brown which I think is important for the carmelising. i was thinking of using the leftover with rice noodles. Thanks.

    - tawni on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • This recipe is a perfect example of why you should follow the ingredient list closely. One thing missing and the result would be completely different.

    It’s delicious, my wife loves it, we’ve made it twice in the last week. I did 1.5 times the sauce so you have extra.

    One secret we discovered is it’s even better cold right out of the fridge. This summer we’re going to try it that way with orzo, a new cold summer salad.

    - Erik on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • I saw this recipe…tried it tonight…and blogged about it, giving your site credit. It is an outstanding dish. Loved it, loved it!!!!

    - Susan on February 24, 2012 Reply
  • Had this last night and it was wonderful! Thanks for sharing and the wonderfully done site.

    - Greg on February 24, 2012 Reply
  • This really was amazing. I made it tonight and my husband still won’t stop kissing on me, thanking me profusely for making such a good dinner. Thank you so much for sharing.

    - Elisabeth Chang on February 9, 2012 Reply
  • I made this last night and it was really tasty.
    I served it with black beans and rice.

    - Sharon on February 6, 2012 Reply
  • Are you supposed to refrigerate fish sauce after you have opened the bottle? I have had some for quite a while and I don’t know if it is still good, because I can’t decide if the smell is a bad smell or the regular smell of the fish sauce! This recipe sounds wonderful, would like to try.

    - Wanda Jackson on January 24, 2012 Reply
    • Hi Wanda, Fish sauce does not need to be refrigerated and it keeps forever. It just smells awful. Yours is probably fine to use. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 24, 2012 Reply
  • Making this right now while the rest of the crew watches ftball. Never disappointed with your recipes! Thank you,

    - Susan Rodman on January 22, 2012 Reply
  • This is on the menu for next week. Looks delicious! Thank you so much!

    - Kel@The Kel Show on January 20, 2012 Reply
  • This dish is awesome. YUM!

    - Michael on January 19, 2012 Reply
  • This looks so amazing! LOVE your new site…

    - Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes on January 19, 2012 Reply
  • Dan and I went to Saigon in 2010 and fell in love with the food. I cannot wait to make – looks amazing! Congrats on your beautiful new site!

    - Laura on January 19, 2012 Reply

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