Crying Tiger Steak

Servings: 4 — Start to finish: 40 minutes — Print this recipe

The colorfully — if somewhat cryptically — named “crying tiger steak” (or seua rong hai) is a popular Thai dish prized for its intensely flavored meat. 

Our version gets its punch from a piquant combination of white pepper and fish sauce. And a very hot grill and a brown sugar rub guarantees the steak gets to the table with a crisp, flavorful crust.

Sometimes translated as weeping or howling tiger, stories abound as to the origin of the name. Some say it refers to poorer days when cheap cuts of meat were more common, resulting in meat so tough not even a tiger could chew it. There’s also a theory that the name refers to drops of fat dripping tear-like from the meat onto the coals, or — our favorite — that the spiciness makes the big cats cry.


1 large shallot, sliced into very thin rings (about 1/3 cup)
3 tablespoons lime juice from 2 limes
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1½ pounds skirt steak, trimmed and cut into 2 to 3 pieces
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1½ cups (about 7 ounces) red or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint


  1. In a large bowl, combine the shallots and lime juice and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of sugar, the salt, and white pepper. Pat the steak dry with paper towels, then rub all over with the sugar-salt mixture. 
  2. Prepare a grill for very high heat. For a charcoal grill, spread a full chimney of hot coals evenly over half of the grill bed. For a gas grill, set all burners to an even, high flame. Heat the grill until hot, about 5 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.
  3. Grill the steak (directly over the coals, if using a charcoal grill) until charred all over and cooked to desired doneness, 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare (depending on the thickness of the steak). Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add the fish sauce, pepper flakes, and remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar to the shallot-lime juice mixture and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Thinly slice the steak against the grain, then transfer to the bowl along with any accumulated juices. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, and mint and fold to combine. Transfer to a platter, garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired, and serve.


DON’T ignore the grain of the steak. Skirt steak has obvious muscle fibers running from one end to the other. Cutting the steak with the grain will result in tough slices. Cutting across the grain shortens the muscle fibers, producing tender, juicy meat.