Disclaimer: No tigers were brought to tears in the making of this recipe. Thai crying tiger steak (seua rong haï), also known as weeping tiger beef, is a dish that comes to us from northeastern Thailand. I’ve heard many explanations of the origin of the name of this dish, however, it seems that no one really knows for sure. One story is that the dish is so tasty that it can bring a tiger to tears. Another is that it is so spicy that it will make you yowl like a tiger.
Fortunately, the amount of spice in this dish is completely adjustable. I’ve toned it down so that it is still spicy but not overpowering. You can adjust it more to suit your preferences as well. This dish has a wonderful balance of spicy, sweet, and sour. It will quickly become a family favourite!
What is crying tiger sauce
Crying tiger sauce (nam jim jaew) is an amazing combination of spicy, sweet, and sour. The tender, marinated and grilled steak slices taste so amazing dipped in it. Key components in this sauce are fish sauce, lime juice, chilli flakes, palm sugar, tamarind, and toasted rice powder. I brighten it with the addition of freshly chopped shallots, coriander, and green onion.
The traditional and, deservingly so, most popular accompaniment for crying tiger steak is sticky rice (also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice). They are so perfect together – I highly recommend making some. You can find it at Asian markets. Sticky rice should soaked for twelve hours before cooking for best results. However, if you don’t have time for that you can just soak it for thirty minutes.
I washed the rice thoroughly, then let it sit under cold water and covered for twelve hours. This is mandatory to soften the hard shells on the rice grains. I then rinsed the rice again and prepared it in my Zojirushi rice cooker on the setting for ‘sweet rice.’ I really like this brand. The quality of their products is wonderful and my rice comes out perfect every time.
How to make Thai crying tiger steak
Marinating the steaks:
For this dish, sirloin is often used. However, you can use most kinds of steaks (sirloin, skirt, flank, etc.). What’s important is that you find cuts that have minimal ‘interruptions’ of gristle in the meat. Trim the sides to clean the meat.
Next, prepare the marinade by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together.
Add both the marinade and the steaks into a large ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible and massage the bag to ensure that the steaks are coated. Place the bag into the fridge for three hours to marinate. If you happen to be around, flip the bag over at the half way point.
After the three hours, remove the bag from the from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour before grilling. Dispose of the leftover marinade.
Toasted rice powder:
Toasted rice powder (or roasted rice powder) is dry, Thai sticky rice that was toasted and then ground down into a powder. It adds a nutty flavour and also serves to thicken the sauce. I was able to buy it at an Asian market, but if you are unable to find it you can make your own. See the note in the recipe card for instructions. Also, I’ve heard that toasted, ground cashews make a good substitute.
Making crying tiger sauce:
This sauce is very easy to make. Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, tamarind paste, and chilli flakes together and stir well until the sugar dissolves. Just before you are ready to serve, stir in the toasted rice powder, shallots, cilantro, and green onion.
Grilling the steaks:
Oil and heat your grill or grill pan to high heat. As soon as it starts to smoke, add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the steaks to your desired doneness. Medium-rare is recommended for this dish. For medium-rare doneness, remove the steaks from the grill when your meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of about 135-140,° as they will still continue to cook a little bit more.
After the steaks are cooked, set them aside and allow them to rest for ten minutes. This time will allow your steaks to become juicier. After they have rested, cut the steaks into very thin pieces against the grain. Thinner is better.
Serving Thai crying tiger steak
Serve the crying tiger dipping sauce and sticky rice in individual serving bowls.
And your feast is ready to enjoy!
I recommend enjoying this dish with a beautiful red wine.
Interested in another fantastic steak recipe? Everyone loves my Umami Orange Steak. It is bursting with fresh orange and delightful Asian flavours.Print
This delicious beef dish from northeastern Thailand has a wonderful balance of spicy, sweet, and sour flavours. The tender strips of marinated steak are dipped into amazing crying tiger sauce. Enjoy it with a bowl of warm sticky rice.
2 sirloin steaks (7 oz/200g each; most other cuts of steak are fine)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp palm sugar *
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp black pepper
Crying Tiger Sauce:
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp palm sugar
2 tsp tamarind concentrate **
2 tsp crushed red chilli flakes (or, to taste)
1/2 tsp toasted rice powder ***
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1tbsp green onion, finely chopped
Trim gristle and fat off of the side of the steaks (try to use steaks with minimal gristle ‘interruptions’ on the inside).
Mix all marinade ingredients together and stir until sugar has dissolved.
Place both marinade and the steaks (in one layer) in large ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible, and massage the bag to coat the steaks. Marinate in the fridge for 3 hours. If you can, flip the bag over at the halfway point. After the 3 hours, remove the bag from the fridge and set it out to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rice: If you are serving with sticky rice, at this point it will have already soaked for 12 hours (or just 30 minutes, if you are short on time) and can now be cooked while the steak sits at room temperature (see sticky rice notes in article above) .
Preheat and oil your grill or grill pan to high (450°). As soon as you start to see smoke, place the steaks on the grill and reduce the heat to medium (350°). All leftover steak marinade can be disposed. Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your steaks. The recommended doneness for this dish is medium-rare, so cook both sides until this or your desired doneness is achieved. For medium-rare, remove the steaks from the grill when your meat thermometer reads about 135-140.° They will continue to cook a bit more even off the grill. Allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes.
While the steaks are grilling, you can begin to mix all of the crying tiger sauce ingredients together, except for the toasted rice powder and freshly chopped onions and herbs. Stir those in just before serving.
Once the steak has rested, cut it into very thin slices against the grain (cutting this way will tenderize the meat). Assemble them onto a serving plate, and serve with individual servings bowls of rice and crying tiger sauce.
* Palm sugar can be substituted with light brown sugar.
** Tamarind concentrate can be substituted with tamarind paste, but the paste is more intense so start with a much smaller amount and add more if needed. Tamarind is a popular ingredient in southeast Asian cuisine. I found it at an Asian market. Tamarind has a sweet and tart flavour.
*** Toasted Rice Powder: I bought toasted rice powder in an Asian market, but you can make your own. Add some dry Thai sticky rice to a stainless steel skillet and heat it over medium heat. Shake frequently to move the rice around, all the while keeping it in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. If the rice begins to burn, reduce heat to medium-low. The rice should turn a golden brown after about 10 minutes. If you want a more intense nutty flavour and popcorn smell in your toasted rice powder, continue cooking while shaking frequently for another 15 minutes. Transfer the rice into a baking pan and allow it to cool to room temperature. Then grind it with a mortar and pestle, a spice grinder, or a food processor. Sift it through a fine mesh strainer to remove everything but the powder. You can store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.
Keywords: Thai crying tiger steak