So good you’d cry.
Subscribe to our new Telegram channel for the latest stories and updates.
A local celebrity recently came under fire after she revealed that she had applied to trademark the term “Harimau Menangis”, a seemingly random phrase or quirky name. A crying tiger? Is it animal abuse? Is it a metaphor?
To my great surprise, it’s actually the name of a dish. In fact, it’s a specific name of a Thai dish that has found great popularity here in Malaysia, especially in the state of Kelantan.
Suea rong hai, a.k.a. Crying Tiger a.k.a. Harimau Menangis
Suea rong hai is an extremely simple Thai dish. Essentially, it is a piece of beef brisket marinated with spices, then grilled rare over open flame and sliced thinly. It is often paired with a common sour and spicy chili dip called nam jim jaew.
The meat gets its tang from the marinade: the basis of which is essentially fish sauce, light soy sauce, white pepper, and salt. Sounds simple enough, right?
The chili dip is the key factor here, as this condiment is what truly brings flavour to the meat. There is no set recipe for the chili dip, as everyone does it differently (sort of like our sambal), but the flavour profiles must be sour, sweet, and spicy.
Various ingredients can be used to achieve this taste, each providing variations in flavour profiles and textures. Commonly used ingredients are chilis, tamarind, lime, fish sauce, sweetener, tomatoes, garlic, sesame seeds, coriander, shallots, or green onion, depending on who is making it and personal preferences.
But why did the tiger cry?
It’s been a staple Thai food for so long that no one really remembers why it’s called Crying Tiger. There are certain theories, of course.
The most popular story is that the tiger cried because a hunter killed and took away a cow it was hunting. Another story is that the tiger tasted the dish and was moved to tears by how delicious it was.
Yet another story claims that the mouth of a tiger is too large to reach the brisket, which is the most tender part of a cow and situated in between bones, hence they cry when they can’t eat it. Some even say that the name is derived from the sizzling sound as the fat in the brisket melts and hits the fire, which looks and sounds like tears.
Regardless of the multitude of theories behind its unique name, the Thai Crying Tiger is a well-beloved and long-standing part of street Thai food that you can get quite easily in Malaysia!
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.