Ultimate Tom Kho Tau Recipe: Authentic Flavors & Serving Tips

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Imagine sinking your teeth into succulent, caramelized shrimp, infused with the rich flavors of garlic, fish sauce, and a hint of sweetness. That’s the essence of Tôm Kho Tàu, a beloved Vietnamese dish that’s not only a feast for your taste buds but also steeped in tradition. Originating from the South of Vietnam, this dish is a staple during family gatherings and festive celebrations, symbolizing togetherness and the joy of sharing a meal.


To recreate the savory Tôm Kho Tàu at home, you’ll need to gather the following ingredients. Ensure each is measured accurately to capture the authentic taste of this cherished Vietnamese dish.

  • Shrimp: 1 pound, peeled and deveined
  • Garlic: 3 cloves, finely minced
  • Shallots: 2, thinly sliced
  • Fish Sauce: 3 tablespoons
  • Sugar: 2 tablespoons (for caramelizing)
  • Water: 1/2 cup
  • Black Pepper: 1 teaspoon, freshly ground
  • Green Onions: 2 stalks, chopped for garnish
  • Vegetable Oil: 1 tablespoon

Ensure your shrimp are thoroughly cleaned and the garlic and shallots are finely chopped to ensure they meld seamlessly into the caramelized sauce.

Equipment Needed

To prepare Tôm Kho Tàu perfectly, you’ll need a few essential kitchen tools that help in achieving the right texture and flavor. Here’s what you should have ready:

  • Large skillet or wok: This will be your main cooking vessel where the shrimp will caramelize beautifully.
  • Saucepan: Needed for preparing the caramel sauce that gives the dish its signature sweetness and color.
  • Wooden spoon or spatula: Use this to stir the ingredients gently but effectively, ensuring they cook evenly without sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Knife and cutting board: Essential for finely mincing garlic and shallots.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: To accurately measure all your ingredients, particularly for the caramel sauce to ensure the right balance of sweetness and flavor.
  • Serving dish: To present your dish attractively. Preferably something that complements the rich color of Tôm Kho Tàu.

Ensure each tool is clean and ready to use to make your cooking process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.


Now that you have all your ingredients and kitchen tools ready, let’s begin the exciting process of making your Tôm Kho Tàu. Proper preparation ensures a delicious outcome!

Cleaning the Shrimp

First, rinse the shrimp under cold water to remove any grit or residue. Carefully peel off the shells while leaving the tail intact for a better presentation. To devein the shrimp, make a shallow cut along the back and gently pull out the vein with the tip of your knife. This step is crucial for ensuring the cleanliness and taste of your shrimp.

Marinating the Shrimp

Once the shrimp are cleaned, it’s time to marinate them to enhance their flavor. In a bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and a generous pinch of black pepper. Mix these ingredients well before adding the shrimp. Toss the shrimp in the marinade to coat them evenly and let them sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature. This marination period allows the shrimp to absorb all the wonderful flavors, setting the stage for a sumptuous dish.

Cooking Process

Now that your shrimp are marinated and your kitchen tools ready, let’s dive into the cooking process. This is where the magic happens, turning simple ingredients into the delectable Tôm Kho Tàu.

Cooking the Shrimp

  1. Heat the Oil: Start by heating vegetable oil in your skillet or wok over medium heat until it’s hot but not smoking. This creates the perfect environment for sautéing.
  2. Caramelize the Sugar: Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the hot oil, stirring constantly. Watch as the sugar melts and turns a golden caramel color. This process should take about 1 to 2 minutes; don’t let the sugar burn.
  3. Sauté the Shrimp: Add the marinated shrimp to the caramelized sugar. Stir continuously to coat the shrimp with caramel. Sauté the shrimp for about 3 to 4 minutes, just until they turn pink and opaque. The quick cooking ensures the shrimp stay succulent and tender.
  1. Introduce Additional Seasonings: Following the sautéing, sprinkle the minced shallots and a little more minced garlic over the shrimp. This step elevates the shrimp’s flavor to a new level, imbuing it with aromatic depth.
  2. Add Water and Simmer: Pour about 1/2 cup of water into the skillet, enough to partly cover the shrimp. Stir well to mix all the seasonings and cover the skillet. Let it simmer on low heat for about 5 to 7 minutes. This allows the flavors to meld and the shrimp to absorb all the seasoning.
  3. Final Touches: Finish by adding a splash of fish sauce for an extra punch of umami and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper for heat. Stir everything well.
  4. Garnish and Serve: Remove the skillet from heat and garnish the dish with chopped green onions. This not only adds freshness to the dish but also a pop of color. Serve your Tôm Kho Tàu warm, ideally over a plate of steaming jasmine rice to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Serving Suggestions

Now that your Tôm Kho Tàu is ready, let’s explore the best ways to serve this delightful dish to enhance its flavors and presentation.

Side Dishes

Pairing your caramelized shrimp with suitable side dishes can turn a simple meal into a feast. Here are some great options:

  • Steamed Jasmine Rice: The subtle sweetness and soft texture of jasmine rice make it the perfect base to absorb the rich sauce of the Tôm Kho Tàu.
  • Cucumber Salad: A light and refreshing cucumber salad dressed with vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt can balance the richness of the shrimp.
  • Vietnamese Baguette (Bánh Mì): For a crunchier option, serve your dish with slices of fresh Vietnamese baguette. It’s great for scooping up the sauce!
  • Use Colorful Garnishes: Sprinkle finely chopped green onions, red chili peppers, and a few cilantro leaves over the top to add color contrast and freshness.
  • Clay Pot Serving: Serve Tôm Kho Tàu in a traditional Vietnamese clay pot, if available, to maintain the authentic feel and keep the shrimp warm.
  • Portion Control: Serve individual portions in small bowls or plates. This not only ensures even distribution of shrimp and sauce but also makes for an elegant presentation.


Ready to dive into the rich flavors of Tôm Kho Tàu? You’ve got all the tips and tricks to make this delicious Vietnamese caramelized shrimp dish a standout at your next meal. Whether you’re serving it up with fluffy jasmine rice or keeping it light with a cucumber salad, the unique blend of sweet and savory will surely impress. Don’t forget to garnish with some green onions and chili peppers for that extra pop of color and flavor. Enjoy the process and the praise you’ll receive from delighted diners!

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