The Sugarcane Shrimp at the Royal Thai in Ottawa was extremely well executed, full of great flavor, and well worth a solid 5 out of 5 Rating.
This little dish featured on the Royal Thai appetizer menu as ‘Goong Pun Ooy’. I tried Googling this but ended up drawing a blank and it was only after a little research that I discovered that the Royal Thai menu entry is a rather idiosyncratic spelling of the more common ‘Goong Pan Oi’. I recognize ‘Goong’ to mean Shrimp, but I can only assume that ‘Pan Oi’ is the Thai term for Sugarcane.
I have had Sugarcane wrapped in minced Shrimp a number of times, but, as best as I can recall, the only breaded and deep-fried versions were in Vietnamese restaurants where they are known as Chạo tôm. I have actually been served a Thai version on another occasion, but, in that case, the delicacy was steamed rather than deep-fried, and was also very good.
Here you can see one of my Sugarcane Shrimp sticks after taking a bite. The Shrimp flesh, which is in a moderately fine mince, was very succulent and the Shrimp was obviously very fresh. In the Vietnamese versions I have tried, the Shrimp was fairly aromatic with Lemongrass and a few other additions, but, here, there was very little seasoning other than salt. This was not an issue for me though, as the delicate Shrimp flavor was sweet and tasty just as it was.
The Sugarcane is itself not edible, as such; It is a bit too tough and fibrous for that. But it also has a nice fresh sweetness to it and you can chew on it after the Shrimp is eaten away and draw out some of its lovely juiciness. There was probably some transfer of the Sugarcane flavor to the Shrimp itself but the effect was not really appreciable.
I though the frying job was really done, but I can take or leaved breaded deep-fried foods, preferring either batter, or just a dusting of flour instead. It struck me, after the fact, that, instead of breadcrumbs, these delicacies would be much better with the same sort of beaten egg and rice flour coating used in the Royal Thai Crab Cakes. The texture of that coating would work really well here, but, having said all that, I still thought this to be a well execute and delicious appetizer.