Shrimp pickles (Tôm chua)


How do you tell when your friends know you too well?

Last Saturday, we had a sushi-night with our friends at Sushiko. When the waitress asked if I was allergic to anything, Kevin jumped right in: “Her husband!”

Yup! That’s how you know!


Of course the guys took this opportunity to complain about women’s dangerous “am I fat” question. If the guy answers too quickly, he’s for sure an insincere jerk. If his answer comes a tad too slow, well let’s just say he’s a deadman walking to the very least.

Consuelo: See how lucky you are? I never ask you such question.

Kevin: Yes, baby!

Consuelo: Too fast! Toooo fastttt!!!

Alright, back to the main topic today – Shrimp Pickles (Tôm chua). This is a specialty from the centre region of Vietnam (Huế). It’s also quite popular in the Vietnamese community here in the U.S. You can find it in almost all Vietnamese/Asian supermarket, at least in the East Coast.

Don’t buy it for three reasons: (1) you never know how much preservatives they put inside each jar. There is no expiration date, and if there is, don’t trust it. (2) the jar is filled with shredded daikon instead of the real goodies – shrimps pickles. And (3) making this dish is extremely easy. Mix the marinade, pour over the shrimps, and wait for a few weeks. That’s all!


The shrimp pickles are best pair with steamed pork belly. I show some tips on how to perfectly steam a piece of pork as well. It can be served with white rice or noodle. If you don’t have Vietnamese herbs on hand, some green salads served on the side are fine.


Shrimp Pickles (Tôm chua)

1 lb shell-on small shrimps (31-40 counts)
1.5 cup fish sauce
1.5 cup sugar
230ml beer (or 45ml vodka)
1 piece 4″ Galangal root (shredded)
8 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
2 red Thai chilli (finely chopped)

  1. Clean shrimps with lightly salted water.
  2. Submerge shrimps in a bowl of 1000ml water + 2 tsp salt + 1 tbs vinegar for 20 minutes. Drain and dry.
  3. In a saucepan, stir fish sauce and sugar until just melted. Let the mixture completely cool.
  4. Add beer (or vodka).
  5. Layer shrimps, galangal, garlic, and chilli in an airtight glass container. Pour the marinade mixture over. Use a small dish to submerge the shrimp under the marinade. Close tight.
  6. Leave the jar in a dark place for 2 weeks (summer time), or 3-4 weeks (winter time).

Tips to Perfectly Steamed Pork

  1. In a sauce pan, boil salted water then poach the meat for 2-3 minutes. Drain and dry. Discard the water
  2. Boil water + 1 tbs salt + 1 tsp vinegar + 1 smashed shallot.
  3. Add the meat, and cook for about 10 minutes (pork belly) or another 5-7 minutes longer for a larger piece (shoulder, or butt).
  4. Plunge the meat in an ice-cold water bowl. Drain and dry.
  5. Slice thinly when completely cool.