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Crying Tiger- Steak with Thai Dipping Sauce

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Crying Tiger is a dish of grilled steak and a spicy Thai dipping sauce.

No, you’re not eating a tiger, but this dish definitely has a catchy name!  The Thai name translates to ‘Crying Tiger’, and it got this name because the dipping sauce is suppose to be so spicy that it’ll make a tiger cry.  

Overhead view of sliced grilled steak on a white plate with dipping sauce, lettuce leaves, and sliced cucumbers.

Whenever we have family dinners at our house, this dish is highly requested.  It’s a simple dish consisting of grilled steak and dipping sauce, but the sauce puts it over the top!

What Kind of Meat to Use in Crying Tiger?

Unlike the name, we are definitely not eating Tiger! Instead use your favorite cut of steak for this dish.

Start by salting both sides of the steak and allow to come to room temperature on your counter, usually an hour is good.

Hand holding a piece of steak being dipped into the sauce.

Then pat the steaks dry to ensure a nice crust on the outside.

You can either grill the steaks or cook on a cast iron skillet like I did in the video below.

I prefer the steak to be medium to medium well for this dish.  And always let your steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Crying Tiger Dipping Sauce

This is the key component for Crying Tiger and can be adjusted to your liking.  The sauce can be described as a spicy, sour, and salty. A trifecta of flavors.

Spicy dipping sauce for Crying Tiger.

Sauce Ingredients and Substitutions:

Ground Thai Chilis- Unlike regular red pepper flakes, ground thai chilies have a finer consistency and are very spicy. I’ve linked where you can find them on Amazon below.

Substitutions can be regular red pepper flakes or sliced fresh Thai Chilies.

Toasted Rice Powder– Similar to Larb and Nam Tok, the sauce for Crying Tiger requires a Thai condiment of toasted rice powder. They sell this in Asian grocery stores or I’ve linked it below on Amazon.

You can also make your own by toasting uncooked sweet rice grains with some Thai lime leaves for a few minutes until lightly browned, then grind in a spice grinder. Once the rice is grounded, sift through a fine mesh strainer to ensure only the powder comes through.

Finished plate of Crying Tiger- sliced steak, lettuce leaves, sliced cucumbers, and dipping sauce.

Fish Sauce– You can adjust the amount of fish sauce to your liking, but if you need a substitute, then use soy sauce. You won’t get the same umami flavor that fish sauce delivers.

Sugar- Traditionally in Thailand palm sugar is used, but I substituted with coconut sugar. You can also use brown sugar or regular sugar to balance out the dipping sauce.

Lime Juice- Always use fresh lime juice, I used 2 whole limes. Start with one and add more if needed.

I also like to add a few teaspoons of water to thin out the sauce, otherwise it will be too concentrated.

Hand holding a lettuce leaf with steak and dipping sauce being added with a spoon.

Can the dipping sauce be made ahead of time?

Since the toasted rice powder expands when it sits in the liquid, I don’t recommend making it too far in advance. You can have all your herbs prepped along with the items you will be serving the crying tiger with.

Then assemble the sauce while the steak is cooking.

Watch the Full YouTube Video Here:

Here are some other spicy Thai dishes:

Larb– Thai Ground Chicken Salad

Nue Nam Tok– Sliced Steak Salad

Som Tum– Thai Papaya Salad

These Thai dishes have bold spicy flavors and can be served with Thai Sticky Rice or a low carb version of lettuce or cabbage leaves.

Hand holding a piece of steak being dipped into a spicy sauce.

Crying Tiger Recipe

Simple grilled steaks get a Thai spin with a spicy dipping sauce.
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Have steak at room temp before cooking 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 22 minutes
Servings 4


  • Grill or Stove


  • 2 pounds Sirloin Steak Season both sides with salt and leave at room temperature for an hour.

Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon Thai Fish Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Lime Juice about 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon Tamarind Concentrate (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Toasted Rice (If making your own, toast 2 Tablesppons of Sweet Glutinous Rice with Lime Leaves and grind to a fine powder).
  • 2 teaspoon Ground Thai Chili Pepper Use more or less depending on your spice level. Can sub red pepper flakes or fresh Thai chilis.
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Sugar or sub brown sugar or regular sugar
  • 2 tablespoon Cilantro Chopped
  • 2 tablespoon Green Onion Chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Water *Taste the sauce first and add water as needed to make it less concentrated.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Lettuce leaves, Cabbage leaves, Cucumber Slices, Thai Sticky Rice or regular rice.


  • Dipping sauce: Combine fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind (if using), toasted rice powder, Thai pepper, coconut sugar, cilantro, green onion, and water. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Adjust to your liking by either adding water to dilute it, or more lime juice, sugar, or fish sauce. (The taste is personal preference).
  • Heat a grill or cast Iron skillet over the stove to hot. Pat steaks dry and place seasoned steaks on grill or skillet and cook for a couple minutes on each side until desired temperature is reached.
  • Allow steaks to rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving with dipping sauce.
  • Serve with Lettuce leaves, Cabbage leaves, Cucumber Slices, Thai Sticky Rice or regular rice.


The one ingredient that could be difficult to find is the toasted rice powder. Most Asian markets will have it. You can make your own by using glutinous rice (see post), or I’ve linked it on Amazon.
This dish pairs well with Thai Sticky Rice and Papaya Salad.


Serving: 1gCalories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 50gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 855mgPotassium: 854mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 351IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 4mg

Nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and depends on ingredients and amounts used. Thai Caliente makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword Crying Tiger, Steak with Thai Dipping Sauce
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5 from 12 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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  1. I made this for my husband, and he loved it! We have leftover dipping sauce. Do you think it would pair well with chicken or fish?

    1. Hi Christiana! Yes, the sauce would definitely pair well with almost any kind of protein. Chicken, Pork, Seafood… Glad your husband liked it!

    2. I make this a lot and I love to make Thai fried chicken wings and dip them into this sauce. When I do steak and verges, I like to marinate my steak in oyster sauce and fish sauce with garlic powder and coarse ground pepper. It turns out amazing!

      1. Nice!! Yes, the steak marinade is pretty common, but growing up my mom never marinated it because I think she was trying to limit the sodium. It is delicious tho!

  2. Instead of ground Thai chili pepper powder, what would it be is fresh Thai chili peppers where used for the dipping sauce?

  3. I searched the Internet for the perfect crying tiger recipe and I’m SO HAPPY I chose this one. Absolutely bangin!! Spicy, salty, sour, sweet. I doubled the recipe so I can have more. Absolute perfection.

    1. Hi Brianna- You can make the sauce a couple hours in advance, just mix the rice powder right before serving. Otherwise it will expand and make the sauce thick. The steaks I recommend cooking until your desired temperature and letting them rest 10 minutes before slicing. Does that help?

  4. What can I use instead of toasted ground rice? What is its purpose in this recipe? Thanks. We will make this when I can figure out a sub for that ingredient.

    1. Hi Chris- There really isn’t a substitute for the ground rice powder. If you can’t find sweet rice to make your own or get it online, then I would just omit it. The dipping sauce will still have lots of flavor with the remaining ingredients.

  5. Isn’t this sauce supposed to have tamarind in it? I want to use it but have no idea where to look for tamarind sauce or paste or whatever.

  6. Really intrigued with this recipe as I love a dipping sauce for steak. On my list for the weekend!

  7. So happy to find this recipe. Crying Tiger has been my favorite Thai dish since I first found it many years ago. I’ve been very disappointed that most Thai restaurants do not have this dish on their menu. Now we can make it at home so I’ll get my fill. This is the only dish I’ve found that I prefer to have “Thai hot”.

    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! It’s true most restaurants in the states don’t serve crying tiger, but it’s such an easy dish to make. And yes Thai Hot is the only way to eat this dish 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you think once you try it!

  8. The name “Crying Tiger” actually comes from the original style of cooking this dish where it originated, Prasit Pochana. They say the hissing of the meat cooking sounds like a tiger crying, hence the name, not because of the sauce.

    1. Oh interesting, thanks! I’ll have to ask my mum, she told me it was the sauce. But she also grew up in a rural part of Thailand, so maybe it has different meanings?

    1. Hi Kat, I’ve never used ground tamarind. Is there a way to make it dissolve in liquid? I would try a small amount and see how it tastes. Otherwise, you can omit and it will still have a great flavor profile!

  9. 11/9/23 Made sauce exactly as written and it was perfect for me & partner. The only tweak was pulverizing dried Thai chilies in place of the “powder”. It was perfectly sour, sweet, & with a spice that had me taking a break in woofing the meal down to enjoy a Singha.

    I will not change a thing. The recipe was perfect for us 2, closer to 4-6 servings for those with a lower heat tolerance.

    I had sub par leftover steak and sliced pork in the fridge desperately needing a tasty sauce to make it edible, this one delivered.

    To make it a complete meal: served sauce with Thai Caliente’s “Easy Thai Sticky Rice”, chopped lettuce, sliced cucumber, and the reheated meat sliced 1/4″ thin.

    Delicious! Thank you Renee.

    1. Hi Sarah- I’m so happy you enjoyed the Crying Tiger and Sticky rice! I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a review, Thank you!!