By Kelly Zenkewich
Growing up in Thailand had a big influence on my tastebuds. Hunting in Alberta impacted my hobbies as an adult. Experimenting with combining the two is how I mix my past and present.
Suea rong hai, also known as crying tiger, is originally from northeastern Thailand. This fiery dish is prepared with grilled meat, usually water buffalo or sometimes beef brisket or ribeye, served with sticky rice and crisp green vegetables on the side, completed with a dipping sauce called nam jim jaew.
Nam jim is Thai for dipping sauce; jaew is a particularly magical type of sweet, sour and spicy sauce of dried chili, fish sauce, lime or tamarind juice, shallots, palm sugar, cilantro and toasted, ground glutinous rice. The variations are endless, don’t be afraid to make it your own.The most important part is it is prepared fresh to allow the ingredients to shine.
My version of seua rong hai is mule deer or whitetail backstrap grilled rare, with jaew that is moderate in heat. Most ingredients are relatively easy to find, but you are likely to have to toast and grind your own rice powder or khao khua, convenient if you are serving it with sticky rice.
Sticky rice is different from other varieties and has a slightly sweet, fragrant flavor with a sticky glutinous texture when cooked. If you can’t find this kind of rice, replace with steamed jasmine rice. (Did you know sticky rice is dead simple to make in an Instant Pot? It's true!)
Dried red Thai bird chiles with ground glutinous rice powder and toasted glutinous rice grains. Toasted sticky rice powder or khao khua adds a nutty element to the dipping sauce and is not easily substituted, but simple to make yourself and worth the effort.
- 1 tablespoon or 15ml of fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon or 15ml of soy sauce
- ½ tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp pepper (white pepper if you have it)
- 1/2 tablespoon or 6g of palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon or 3g minced shallot or green onion
- 1-2 tablespoons or 10 to 20g of ground sticky rice powder (see directions)
- 1-5 ground dried red Thai chilis (depends how spicy you like it)
- 1/4 cup or 60ml of fish sauce
- 1/4 cup of 60ml of fresh lime juice (can replace with 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste/juice and 1 tablespoon water)
- 500g of trimmed venison backstrap (or other lean cut you like grilled)
- Cabbage leaves or butter lettuce leaves for wrapping
- Sliced cucumber
- 1-2 cups of prepared Thai sticky or jasmine rice
Suea rong hai is best at rare temperatures with a strong seared crust on the outside. It’s juicy, it’s spicy, and it’s perfect for game.
Prepare the marinade and put the trimmed backstrap in it for at least 2 hours but up 8 hours in the fridge.
Prepare the dipping sauce, or nam jim jaew. Toast 2 tablespoons of uncooked sticky rice grains in a pan over low heat while stirring frequently about 20 minutes until a sandy brown color. Watch it closely near the end, it can turn and burn fast. Transfer to a bowl to let cool slightly then grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Combine the rest of the sauce ingredients in a small non-reactive bowl or container. If preparing ahead of time, it is recommended to add the onion, cilantro and toasted rice powder right when you’re ready to serve. Some rice powder will settle on the bottom.
Prepare cabbage/lettuce by separating into single leaves and slice cucumber.
Grill the meat until it’s done to your liking, but this is best with rarer meats, especially if it’s a lean cut. My preference is 125 degrees F, or blue rare with a nice sear on the outside.
Slice venison thinly, dip in sauce and wrap with a few spoons of sticky rice in raw cabbage or lettuce leaves, eating with cucumber slices as needed to cool your mouth.