Crying Tiger

I had to do some planning to make this dish, but as soon as I saw the Youtube video in which one of my favorite Youtube chefs, Pailin Chongchitnant, presented it, I knew I had to make it. I had most of the ingredients, but Pailin stressed that the ingredient that could not be substituted for, the signature taste in the sauce, was tamarind paste. I can go to either of the two Mexican markets just down the street and get all manner of tamarind products, but the tamarind paste in this dish is Thai, and I had to make a trip to get it. It was completely worth it. The beef (I used flank steak) is good but I have made grilled flank steak many times before. The sauce was the thing I wanted to try.

After acquiring the tamarind paste, the rest was easy. Pailin’s website provided the recipe. The sauce exceeded my wildest exceptions: it is rich, spicy, sweet, sour–all the things.

Wikipedia provides two possible sources for the name of this dish:

The ancient Thai culture teaches that life depends on the forest, which is the food source for the people. There are many cows in the forest which are eaten by tigers. People would come across the remains of cows that were hunted down and eaten by the tigers. They personified the tigers as having emotions and feelings like humans. If this was true, they imagined the tigers would have cried because most of them left the brisket cut to rot instead of eating it. People used this cut to cook a delicious dish and named it “crying tiger”.[1] On the other hand, it is the imagination of the ancient people that compare the appearance of the brisket cut to the skin of a tiger and called it “tiger meat”. When the meat is grilled, the fat that accumulates in the muscle fibers is melted by the heat and drops like a tear. Using their imagination, they named the dish “crying tiger”.

This is how I made it.

Thai Marinated Grilled Steak with “Jeaw” Dipping Sauce (Crying Tiger)

Marinated Steaks
1.5 lb steaks   see note
12 tsp black peppercorns   
2 cloves garlic   
2 Tbsp soy sauce   
12 Tbsp oyster sauce   
2 tsp sugar   
1 Tbsp lime juice   
2 Tbsp neutral oil   
Sticky rice   for serving, see note
Nam Jim Jeaw Dipping Sauce   
2 Tbsp tamarind paste   
1 Tbsp fish sauce   
1 Tbsp lime juice   
1 Tbsp palm sugar   very finely chopped
2 Tbsp minced shallots   or chopped green onion
12 teaspoon roasted chili flakes   or to taste
1 Tbsp uncooked jasmine   or sticky rice, (for toasted rice powder)
3 sprigs cilantro   or mint, chopped

To make the marinade, pound the black pepper in a mortar and pestle into a powder, then add the garlic and pound into a fine paste. Add all remaining marinade ingredients and stir to mix well.

Place the steaks into a dish just big enough to hold them in one layer, or put them in a freezer bag. Add the marinade and move the steaks around to ensure they’re thoroughly coated.

Marinate the steaks for a minimum of 3 hours and up to overnight. Bring the steaks out 1 hour before grilling so they will not be too cold and will cook more evenly.Note: Marinated steaks, especially ones with sugar like this, are better suited for the grill. Pan searing is fine but the marinade will more easily burn with direct contact to the hot oil. So without a grill, I would recommend doing a quick sear on the pan just to get it nice and browned, then finishing it off on a rack in the oven.

Grill the steaks to your preferred doneness. I like grilling them on high heat with the lid open to ensure they have nice grill marks. See the video above for more grilling tips.

For the Nam Jim Jeaw dipping sauce

In a small bowl, combine the tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Stir in the shallots and the chili flakes and set aside while you make the toasted rice powder; don’t worry about any undissolved sugar chunks.

Make the toasted rice powder: In a dry skillet, add the rice and toast it over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the grains are deep brown (see video for the colour you’re going for). Pour onto a plate to cool, then grind in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder into a mostly-fine powder.

Close to serving time, stir the sauce; the sugar should now be completely dissolved, and if there are a few stubborn chunks, they can be easily smushed with the back of a spoon. Stir in the toasted rice powder and cilantro or mint.