Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Fried Shrimp with Salt)

Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Shrimp Fried with Salt) 1

Sometimes I cook based on my cravings. Sometimes, it's just a matter of what's on sale at the grocery store. For instance, yesterday I saw these head-on shrimp for only $2.99 a pound. $2.99 a pound! So, of course, I bought a pound because I immediately knew how I wanted to cook them -- lightly seasoned with salt and Chinese five-spice powder, lightly coated with rice flour, and deep-fried until crispy. And as if that wasn't yummy enough, adding some fried Thai basil leaves and dried chili pods added extra zing.

Shrimp have a natural sweetness and plenty of flavor on their own. So I like to add just a little bit of salt and Chinese five-spice powder to bring this recipe to life. With its mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese five-spice powder hits sweet, salty, sour, bitter, salty, and spicy flavor notes.

I like using rice flour when frying Asian foods because it's crispier than regular all-purpose flour, but not as hard as corn starch. If you can't get rice flour, then substitute with a mixture of half all-purpose flour and half corn starch.

Choose medium-sized white shrimp with soft, edible shells. I think head-on shrimp is best for this recipe, especially if there's lots of bright red roe inside the heads. Just detach the heads and suck out the roe to eat. :) Then plop the rest of the shrimp in your mouth.

Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Shrimp Fried with Salt) 2

Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Fried Shrimp with Salt) 

For 1-lb of shrimp, you'll need:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup rice flour (or substitute with half all-purpose flour and half corn starch)
A few sprigs of Thai basil leaves
A few dried chili pods
Oil for deep-frying

Remove the shrimp veins by slipping a toothpick in between the shells and pulling the veins out. Rinse under cold water and drain in a colander.

This recipe comes together really quickly at this point, so set your oil in a wok or fry-pan on medium-high heat to warm up.

Sprinkle 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder over the shrimp and mix thoroughly. Do this right before you plan to cook the shrimp, otherwise the shrimp will absorb too much salt and become overly salty. Then sprinkle 1/4 cup rice flour and mix again. If the shrimp aren't all coated with flour, add some more and mix again until all the shrimp are evenly coated.

Drop one shrimp at a time into the hot oil and deep-fry until crispy and golden. I also add the basil leaves and chili pods at this point to scent and fry the oil. The basil leaves will actually crisp up.

If you don't have basil, thinly sliced green onions will add a nice bit of color and flavor. Well, you don't have to add any herbs or chili, but I think just that simple addition turned an ordinary fried shrimp recipe into a very delicious-looking dish.

Drain on paper towels and serve with rice, or a dipping sauce of salt, black pepper, and freshly squeezed lime juice.


I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting this week. WHB is hosted this week by Anna of Anna's Cool Finds.

1 year ago today, I made Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken).


  1. I've wanted this recipe! This looks really good! Thanks for participating in WHB.

  2. Great point on using rice flour to fry. I always forget that and grab for my convenient all purpose. Rice flour certainly adds a unique crispness that makes Viet fried foods stand out. I'm gonna show Dad your pic,this is one of his favorite dishes. My pops will eat shrimp till it makes him sick. Your recipe calls for one pound of shrimp, so that's his limit!

  3. Why would u leave the shells on? Wouldn't it be easier to eat and dip with shells off, I do know that perhaps some taste might be lost but very little in comparison to the bothersome act of de-shelling while in ur hands.

  4. YUM! I'm putting shrimp on my grocery list now! My mom always makes this with the smaller shrimp that have thinner shells for easier eating. I like the idea of adding the basil.

  5. The shrimp look finger lickin' good and I'll try out rice flour the next time I fry something.

  6. That's an incredible price for fresh shrimp. Sounds just delicious. I am guessing the crisp fried basil also tastes wonderful.

  7. looks really yummy...I've never tried cooking shrimp this way...will be on my to cook list from now on :)

  8. I absolutely love head on shrimp and wish I could always get them. I've never tried frying with rice flour, but it sounds like a good idea. I'm definitely trying this recipe. Thanks!

  9. Lovely Shrimpsss!!! I have voted your Summer Roll... :)

  10. fried head-on shrimp are probably one of my favorites! i didn't know rice flour was involved, but that explains a lot. i will definitely have to try these out.

  11. oh lovely color of the prawns. I like your addition of thai basil leaves and chili.

    This also reminds of cereal oats prawns.. similar style but replacing the rice flour with oats.

  12. Anna,
    Glad to oblige. :)

    Eeek! A whole lb of shrimp to himself?! I hope he likes my recipe then.

    I eat the shells. :) If you choose smaller "white" shelled shrimp, the shells are thin enough to eat.

    Yup, that's the kind I used.

    I hope you do.

    With a deal like that, I couldn't pass them up.

    Here babe, take a napkin to wipe that drool off your chin.

    I hope you try it!

    I thought shrimp would be plentiful in Alaska!

    Umm, mine was the coffee!

    Well, I don't know how others do it, this is just how I do mine. :P

    I've never heard of oat prawns?!

    Stop trying to claim everything. ;)

  13. One of my favorites! Even a bigger plus that the shrimp heads are crispy and edible. I eat the heads!

  14. Wow - you've been cooking up a storm lately! All I can do is drool at your food!! mmmmmm.

  15. Elmo,
    I only suck the heads. I can't eat the eyes!

    Yeah, lady! Why haven't you been posting?

  16. Ooh we just got a deep fryer I wanna try making this next!

  17. Jeannie,
    Deep fryers are awesome! But I still prefer my wok. :)

  18. Love the comment that asked "Why would u leave the shells on?" and goes on to the describe the "bothersome" act of removing the shells while eating!

    The crispy shells and tails are my favorite parts! Nom nom nom. :-)

    And this recipe comes out perfectly crispy. I'm not a big fan of batter (on anything) to begin with, but I followed this recipe using the mix of 1/2 flour, 1/2 corn starch and the batter came out so light and crispy. The only thing I did differently is that I didn't have any five-spice powder on hand so I substituted ground black pepper instead. (Also, my shrimp were headless.)

    So good, I will never fry shrimp another way again. Shrimp's been on sale here and I've made this 3 times in the past week and a half. They disappear so quickly. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  19. Vuthy,
    Awww, thanks for such detailed feedback and for trying so many of my recipes. :) I really do appreciate hearing back from readers.


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