Smoke-Grilled Tri-Tips with Jeow Som Dipping Sauce

2020 F&W Best New Chef Donny Sirisavath of Khao Noodle Shop in Dallas shared this recipe, a nod to his Laotian heritage and Texas upbringing, when his parents grilled brisket over hardwood coals for family gatherings. Here, thick and meaty tri-tip steaks get seared on the hot zone of the grill and then slowly smoke-grilled until medium-rare. Let them rest, and then thinly slice them against the grain and serve with Sirisavath's jeow som, a fiery, fish sauce–flavored dipping sauce. A quick soak in beer tenderizes thick tri-tip steaks, and a marinade of garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, and fish sauce builds big flavor. Sirisavath loves using oak or mesquite wood here, placed at the center of the grill, alongside the lit coals, where they smolder and add a rich aroma.

Smoke Grilled Tri Tips with Jeow Som Dipping Sauce
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer and John Somerall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis
Active Time:
45 mins
Marinate Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
9 hrs 25 mins
8 to 12


  • 2 ¼ cups (18 ounces) lager or IPA-style beer, divided

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) tri-tip steaks

  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped 

  • ¼ cup finely chopped lemongrass (from 2 small stalks)

  • 12 garlic cloves

  • 2/3 cup oyster sauce

  • ½ cup fish sauce

  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

  • 1 (16- x 6- x 3-inch) log of oak or mesquite wood, for grilling

  • Grapeseed oil, for grilling

  • Cooked jasmine rice or sticky rice, or lettuce leaves, for serving 

  • Jeow Som Dipping Sauce


  1. Stir together 1 1/2 cups beer and salt in a gallon-size ziplock plastic bag until dissolved. Add steaks to bag, seal, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate 2 hours, turning bag and massaging steaks occasionally.

  2. Meanwhile, combine cilantro, lemongrass, and garlic in a blender, and process on high speed until finely minced, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, pepper, and remaining 3/4 cup beer, and process on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove steaks from refrigerator. Drain and discard beer mixture, and pour cilantro marinade over steaks in bag, massaging gently to coat steaks. Seal bag, and return steaks to refrigerator. Let marinate, turning bag and massaging steaks occasionally, at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours.

  3. Heat one chimney of charcoal until flames subside and coals are lightly covered in ash. Arrange coals for two-zone cooking: Bank coals along half of bottom grate of charcoal grill. Add log along edge of coals. Place oiled cooking grate over coals; open bottom and top vents of grill. Cover grill, and heat to medium-high (400°F to 450°F). Remove steaks from plastic bag, and discard marinade. Grill steaks over direct heat, uncovered, flipping often, until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Transfer steaks to indirect heat with fat cap facing coals. Cover and cook, flipping steaks occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 125°F for medium-rare, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer steaks to a platter, and let rest until internal temperature rises to 135°F, about 10 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain, and serve on rice or with lettuce leaves as wraps, alongside Jeow Som dipping sauce.

Suggested Pairing

Hoppy, refreshing IPA: Bell's Brewery Two Hearted Ale

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