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Sugarcane Fields

The Sweetest Spot in Africa

KZN is the sugar bowl of Southern Africa, and with that comes some pretty awesome opportunity to experience fresh sugar cane products and sweeten our lives a little!

In 1848 the first sugar cultivars were imported from Mauritius, and proved to be so successful that the first mill was built on the Compensation flats in 1850, and in 1852 the Jane Morice sailed into the bay with a cargo of 15,000 cane tops from Mauritius. By 1855 a number of other mills were in operation, and so with it came the indentured Indian labourers and a whole new chapter for the KZN landscape.

Sugarcane Raw

Today South Africa has approximately 29 130 registered sugarcane growers who annually produce on average 19.9 million tons of sugarcane from 14 mill supply areas, extending from Northern Pondoland in the Eastern Cape to the Mpumalanga Lowveld. Although most sugarcane in South Africa is grown predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal.


Here in KZN it isn’t hard to come by some fresh sugarcane, but what can we make with it? In Asia, raw sugar cane is a popular snack. We can eat it fresh by chopping it into tiny pieces, chewing it for its juice and then spitting out the pulp. Many people also make sugar cane juice with a sugar cane crusher or juicer and then use the juice as a sweetener in drinks or desserts. Raw sugar cane is not usually used in cooking due to its hard chewy pulp. However, there is a famous Vietnamese dish, made with shrimp and raw sugar cane, called chao tom. It is quite easy to prepare this delicious appetizer.


Chao Tom

Things You’ll Need

Food processor

Electric hand beater

Wok or deep frying pan

Sharp knife


1 1/2 lb. raw shrimp

3 cloves garlic

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 egg white

1 stalk of sugar cane



1) Rinse and devein the shrimp; then pat dry with paper towels.

2) Peel the sugar cane with a sharp knife and chop into 4 pieces. Each piece should be about 5″ in length and 1/2″ in diameter.

3) Put shrimp, garlic and vegetable oil in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

4) Use an electric hand beater to whip egg white until frothy.

5) Add the beaten egg white to the shrimp mixture, then blend well with a spoon or your hand.

6) Refrigerate the mixture for about half an hour. Divide it into four equal portions.

7) Wrap each portion of shrimp mixture around 2/3 of each sugar cane stick.

8) Deep fry them in a wok or deep frying pan until golden brown. Remove from heat with tongs. Serve right away.


PS: If you’re just ready to munch on that lovely fresh sugarcane, but are not sure how, check out this cute YouTube Video

About Meredith Haywood

Meredith Haywood
I'm the Editor and Creative Director of 5 Star Durban, I Instagram a bit, I cook sometimes, but mostly I write, and edit... a lot... I'm a philanthropist at heart, and I can't resist fluffy bunnies, kittens and puppies... recently I have started to ponder what owning a goat in a flat could be like...

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