Thu Jul 21, 2016
Most Thai restaurants stick to a pretty formulaic menu structure—there's the rice, noodles, or curry with choice of meat I would wager the majority of people order off of, then the specialities. Those specialities almost always sound the most interesting (to me anyway), but also fetch a higher price, making them feel like a splurge from the normal Thai night out. It was on one of those evenings I felt like shaking things up and ordered off of the specialities that I discovered Crying Tiger Steak, and it's since become hard for me not order it whenever I see it. It's a pretty simple dish—grilled steak with a spicy chili dipping sauce—but so good that it's totally worthy of the extra spend on an regular basis.
It certainly helps that most of the Crying Tiger steaks I've encountered have featured either skirt or flank steak—two of my favorite cuts. While those cuts are so heavily beefy they hardly need any additional help past salt and pepper, this recipe adds a boost of savoriness by way of a marinade made up of soy sauce, oyster sauce, palm sugar, and oil.
The proportion of marinade in this recipe doesn't look like enough to handle a couple pounds of steak, but it's pretty powerful stuff. Just a few hours rest in the sauce is sufficient to give the steak an enhanced salty and savory quality, although you can let it marinade overnight as well.
While the steak is a big attraction, it's the sauce that seals the deal. The sauce is called jaew and it's distinctive feature is being made of dried chilis. The best versions of this sauce I've had were incredibly spicy, which led me to start it off with fiery arbol chilies that I ground in a spice grinder.
Then I whisked together a fairly ubiquitously Thai set of ingredients—fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, shallots, scallions, and palm sugar—to form the base of the sauce. Next I added in the ground chilies until it was a tad less spicy than I wanted, knowing the heat would increase as it sat. Finally, I added in a teaspoon of roasted rice powder, which gave the sauce its distinct nutty, toasted flavor.
With the sauce ready and steak marinated, it was off to grill to do something I'm well versed in—grilling skirt steak. Skirt is easily my favorite cut, but it has to be done right to get the insanely delicious end product I love. A blazing hot fire of fresh lit coals is almost a must to achieve the well browned exterior paired with the desired medium-rare doneness.
Then after letting the steak rest, it must be cut against the grain into fairly thin strips. Because skirt has long muscle fibers, slicing it in this manner shortens those fibers, rendering it tender rather than chewy.
And when you pair this beefy, tender steak with the powerhouse sauce that is jaew, it combines into a truly marvelous thing. The sauce adds an acidity, heat, and savoriness that enhances the steak so well by deepening and freshening its flavor while adding spiciness that matches, but doesn't totally overwhelm the steak's own richness. I feel like one taste of this and you'll understand why it's good to venture off the usuals on a Thai menu and into specialities territory, at least every now and then. The best thing about this recipe though is that it's so simple and quick to make, it's become more of a home cooked, rather than order out, item for me—I've made it three times in the last couple months alone.
Tiger Cry Steak
Adapted from Serious Eats
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 4 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 4 Hours 25 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Steak
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon palm or light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds beef skirt steak, trimmed of excessive fat and silverskin
- For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
- 2 teaspoons dried red pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon palm or light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted rice powder
- To make the steak: Whisk together dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and oil in a small bowl. Place steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator and let marinate 4 hours to overnight.
- To make the sauce: Whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, shallots, scallions, pepper powder, sugar, and rice powder. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill steak over high heat until deeply browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice steak into 1/2-inch strips against the grain. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately with sauce.