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Fresh corn stir-fried with butter, green onions, coconut cream, and spices. Add fresh pan-fried shrimp with a squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro, and the result is a delicious crunchy bite with sweet, salty, umami flavours coming together with the right amount of tang on your taste buds.
Vietnamese street food was one of the best discoveries I made while trekking through Ho Chi Minh city with my sister back in 2004. From BBQ meats on sticks to bowls of hot soups to freshly pressed sugar cane drinks served in a bag with a straw, we loved exploring the variety of snack foods and drinks each street vendor had to offer at their rolling cart.
One of the most popular street food we tried (for the first time) was called “Bắp Xào Tôm Khô” which translates to “Stir-fried corn with dried shrimp“. This dish has four basic ingredients: butter, corn, dried shrimp, and green onions. From there, depending on the vendor, it can be diversified with sliced sausages, fried eggs, mustard leaves, Sriracha sauce, and more. What works so well with this dish is that three flavour components are combined; creamy rich butter, natural sweet corn, and salted dried shrimp, which creates a perfect flavour pairing with each bite!
I have taken the basics of this dish and added a few more ingredients to elevate the flavours. Also, since dried shrimp is an acquired taste for some, I have replaced it with fresh shrimp since it is more accessible at your local grocery store. By seasoning the fresh shrimp before pan frying it, you will get similar flavours to dried shrimp but less intense. I hope you take advantage of fresh corn when it is in season and give this recipe a try!
*Good To Know*
- Can I use frozen corn instead?
I encourage you to try this recipe with fresh corn when in season since fresh corn has a sweet and crunchy texture that makes this dish so delicious! Having said that, you can definitely use frozen corn. Adjust with a bit of sugar to bring out more sweetness from the corn if it is not sweet. Only use canned corn as your last resort because it is processed, meaning it has added preservatives or brine and has already been pressure cooked, which leaves you having to adjust the seasoning and cook time for this recipe.
- What is the purpose of dried shrimp?
Salted, dehydrated shrimp is sun-dried and shrinks to about the size of a penny (or smaller). It is favoured as a natural, umami imparting ingredient in Asian cuisines for broths, soups, stews, and stir-fries. I give you a different twist by using fresh shrimp and seasoning it.
- Can I chop the fresh shrimp into smaller bite sizes?
For budget-friendly shrimp, or if you don’t have enough shrimp on hand, you can roughly chop the peeled shrimp into smaller bite sizes to use in this recipe.
- I can’t find coconut cream powder. What can I substitute it with?
You can substitute with coconut milk or cream from a can. If you want to use coconut oil, use unrefined coconut oil to retain some coconut flavour that gives this dish an exotic flair.
Ingredients you will need:
- fresh corn on the cob – I used sweet corn (yellow & white kernels)
- frozen or fresh shrimp (headless & deveined) – large shrimp preferred such as 16/20. This just means that there are 16 – 20 shrimp in a pound. The lower the number, the larger the shrimp.
- premium fish sauce
- coconut cream powder
- msg – optional
- unsalted butter
- green onion
How to peel (headless, deveined) shrimp
- If you are using frozen shrimp, soak it in cold (not hot!) tap water for a safe way to thaw shrimp within an hour. Replace the water at least once or twice within that hour. If you have time, thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight instead.
Headless, deveined shrimp is easy to peel because half of the work is already done for you.
2. Hold the meat with one hand and lightly grab the shrimp peel ‘swimmerets‘ (tiny swimmer legs) with your fingers. Lightly tug to pull away the peel from the meat but keep the peel with tail intact
4. Pull the peel away. This should remove the entire peel off the shrimp and leave the tail meat intact
Season shrimp meat
Place peeled shrimp into a medium bowl and season with minced garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and msg (optional). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you work on the next step.
How to shuck fresh corn on the cob
Here’s how I clean the husk and silk from each ear of corn. It is simpler than you think. Since we need to cut the kernels off the cob, the essential step is keeping the stalk to a length you can use as a handle.
4. Clean off any stray silk that is still clinging to the corn
How to cut corn kernels off the cob
A little preparation goes a long way. I used to cut the kernels off the cob on a cutting board, which was messy! My go-to method is a lot cleaner now.
Use the largest bowl you can find. Then place a small bowl upside down inside the large bowl. Make sure that it fits and that the height of the small bowl is lower than the large bowl. It will help catch the kernels without overspilling. Hold the cob by its stalk and place it on the small bowl. With a sharp knife, carefully cut from the stalk down toward the tip to remove the kernels off the cob. Work your way around the ear until all of the kernels are removed.
Stir-fry everything in one pan
Preheat a large nonstick pan on medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Pan fry shrimp in a single layer for 2 to 2½minutes per side until it is cooked or until it is pink in colour and no longer translucent. Remove shrimp and set it aside on a plate.
Then turn the heat up to high and in the same pan, melt unsalted butter. Add the corn and sautée it for 5 minutes. Pour in fish sauce and add the coconut cream powder. If you are using coconut milk or cream from a can, add a few extra minutes to cook the corn until some of the cream has evaporated. Mix everything and continue to stir the corn for another 10 to 15 minutes until it is cooked.
Lastly, add the chopped green onions and shrimp back into the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes to combine. Serve corn while hot, garnished with chopped cilantro and a wedge of lime. Enjoy!
Vietnamese Stir Fried Corn with Fresh Shrimp (Bắp Xào)
For the shrimp
For the corn
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil, or canola oil
- 3 Tablespoon (42 g) unsalted butter
- 6 ears (580 g) of fresh sweet corn (or 6 cups frozen sweet corn), husk & silk peeled off, corn removed from the cob
- ½ cup (50 g) green onions (from 1 stalk, green leaves only), chopped
- 2 Tablespoons (30 g) coconut cream powder, alternatively coconut milk or cream from a can
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) premium fish sauce
For the garnish
- ¼ cup (4 g) cilantro, stem removed, rinsed and chopped
- 1 whole (67 g) lime, cut into wedges
Marinate the shrimp
- Peel shrimp and place it into a medium bowl. Marinate it with fish sauce, white sugar, m.s.g. (optional), and minced garlic. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate shrimp while you work on the next step.
Stir-fry the corn
- Peel off corn husk and silk from each ear of corn. Cut corn kernels off the cob and place them into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Add seasoned shrimp (with marinade) into the pan in a single layer and pan fry shrimp for 2 to 2½ minutes per side until it is cooked or until it is pink in colour and no longer translucent. Remove shrimp and set it aside on a plate.
- Increase the heat to high and in the same pan, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Add the corn and sautée it for 5 minutes. Pour in fish sauce and add the coconut cream powder. If you are using coconut milk or cream from a can, add a few extra minutes to cook the corn until some of the cream has evaporated. Mix everything and continue to stir the corn for another 10 to 15 minutes until it is cooked.
- Add the chopped green onions and shrimp back into the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes to combine.
- Serve corn while hot, garnished with chopped cilantro and a wedge of lime. Add a dash of Sriracha sauce for little kick. Enjoy!