I bet many of you will arch your eyebrows when you see “crying tiger” on the menu at Thai restaurant. Do you know what crying tiger is? Why does the tiger cry?
Crying tiger (Sua Rong Hai: เสือร้องไห้) is an Isaan beer snack that is famous though out Thailand and now worldwide. The dish is sliced grilled beef served alongside dried chilli, tamarind dipping sauce (Nam jim jeaw) and sticky rice.
There are a few stories behind the name. Some say the dish is made out of a cheap cut of meat and thus it is so tough that even a tiger can’t chew it and that makes the tiger cry (poor tiger). Some say that it’s the opposite, the steak is the best part but the tiger has started eating other parts first until he is really full and he can’t eat anymore, then finds out that he didn’t eat the best part. Some say that part is the best part but it is so hard for the tiger to get it out from the cow’s chest so what he can do but just look and cry.
I’m not really sure which one is true, but I tend to believe in the tough cut of meat story, because the Isaan crying tiger version I have seen mostly uses brisket, which is best served by slicing thinly and serving immediately while still hot as when it gets cold it can be chewy.
For the recipe there are also a few different versions, like the stories of the name. The simplest recipe, and how I remember my family making it, is by just rubbing the brisket with salt then grilling on charcoal. The most important part is the dipping sauce, or Nam jim jeaw, which uses tamarind sauce, chili flake, fish sauce and grounded roasted rice. Sugar is rarely used or used in a very small amount.
After the dish became famous, people have adapted the recipe to their own taste and style. From the tough brisket cut to a better cut like rump or scotch fillet or wagyu beef. From marinade with just salt, some added sauces, garlic, coriander root and more. The dipping sauce developed to become sweeter to suit people from central Thailand and foreigners. To me, there is no right or wrong way, people should just cook and eat the way they like and be happy.
The recipe I want to share today is how I like to make my crying tiger. It may not be an authentic version, but as always you are welcome to adjust to your own taste.
•300g Beef (see note 1)
•½ tbsp. oyster sauce
•1 tbsp. seasoning sauce
•1 tbsp. cooking oil
1. Use the fork to pierce the beef all over then add seasoning sauce and oyster sauce. Give it a good rub for around 5 to 10 mins before adding the oil and again rub well.
2. Leave the beef marinade for 15-20 min. Then cook as your preferred method like grilling on charcoal, BBQ or pan grill.
3. Rest the steak before slicing and serve with dipping sauce.
Note 1: I used a beef brisket cut this time. The beef can be chewy for some and could make you cry (joking). If that is the case some other options that could be used in this recipe are rump steak, scotch fillet, porterhouse or wagyu.
The recipe below is easy and is a dipping sauce recipe with reduced sweetness. I have posted another option which might suit foreigners more on my Instagram. You can find the recipe here.
•2 tbsp. Tamarind sauce
•2 tbsp. Fish sauce
•½ tbsp. Palm sugar
•1 tbsp. Chili flake
•1 tbsp. Grounded roasted rice
•½ tbsp. Chopped shallot
•½ tbsp. Chopped spring onion
•½ tbsp. chopped coriander
•½ tbsp. chopped Sawtooth Coriander, optional (see note 2)
1. Combine tamarind sauce, fish sauce and palm sugar and mix well until sugar dissolves.
2. Add chili flakes, grounded roasted rice and all herbs. Taste and adjust if required.
Note 2: Sawtooth Coriander or culantro is sometimes available in Asian grocery shops. If you are able to find it give it a try. The Sawtooth Coriander can be added in other dishes like Tom yum.