A classic Thai recipe with a Canadian venison twist
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 consists of grilled meat, usually water buffalo or sometimes beef brisket or ribeye, served with sticky rice and crisp green vegetables on the side. A dipping sauce called nam jim jaew completes the dish.
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 features 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. This will be convenient if you are serving it with sticky rice.
Sticky rice is different from other rice varieties. It 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. It’s not easily substituted, but it’s simple to make yourself and worth the effort.
Suea Rong Hai: Crying Tiger Venison
- 500 g venison backstrap
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp fine salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ Tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar
- 1 Tbsp cilantro finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp shallot or green onion minced
- 1-2 Tbsp ground sticky rice powder (see instructions)
- 1-5 dried red Thai chilis ground
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice (or 2 Tbsp tamarind juice + 1 Tbsp water)
- Cabbage or butter lettuce leaves
- Sliced cucumber
- Thai sticky or jasmine rice
- Prepare the marinade. 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 two tablespoons of uncooked sticky rice grains in a pan over low heat while stirring frequently for about 20 minutes. The grains will turn 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. I recommend to add the onion, cilantro, and toasted rice powder 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. Note that this recipe 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. Eat with cucumber slices as needed to cool your mouth.
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.