Tinolang Palaka (Frog Stewed with Ginger and Chili Leaves)
of the tailless amphibians are still not a universally acceptable table fare in spite of its whitish or yellowish and relatively fine looking meat (maybe debatable), good taste and high nutrients contents. Even if French are eating about 4,000 tonnes annually, the Chinese and other East Asians such as Koreans, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Thais and Filipinos, to name just a few, contributing the larger share of the world consumption with several tens of thousands tonnes eaten yearly, frog will somehow still cause many to shiver (or faint if really squeamish) if served in a meal.
Probably, no amount of gourmet preparation would totally erase the culturally-inflicted impression that the moist, smooth-skinned and master-jumper animal, with its most important meat found in its powerful legs, is not an appealing culinary item, in general context that is. Perhaps, the thought that some of the most lethal poisons known to man are found in some varieties adds up to the culture of rejection of frog as a major food commodity. That while Indonesians are exporting several thousands tonnes annually and farm-raised frogs are now available in many countries, we are yet to see frog establishes a wide niche in the world food market.
As a backgrounder, frogs are amphibians in the order ?Anura? meaning without tail. Most frogs are distinguished by a short squat body, webbed fingers or toes, popped out or protruding eyes and long and strong legs making them exceptional leapers. With permeable skin, frogs are often semi-aquatic or inhabit humid areas, but can move easily on land. They typically lay their eggs in puddles, ponds or lakes and their larvae, called tadpoles, have gills and develop in water. Frogs are most noticeable by their call, which can be widely heard during the night or day, mainly during the mating season.
There are two varieties of edible frogs usually found in the wet markets of the Philippines and other Asian nations. The native farm frogs sometimes called rice field frogs or ?palakang bukid? (in the Philippine language) and the larger type called Chinese edible frog or East Asian bullfrog or Taiwanese frog locally known as simply bull frog.
The latter, which is basically bigger and meatier but said to have quite tougher and less flavorful meat, is also commonly found in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Its varied natural habitats are freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marches, arable land, pastureland, rural gardens, urban areas, natural ponds, aquaculture ponds, open excavations, irrigated land, seasonally flooded agricultural land and even canals and ditches.
Both varieties are usually sold live to assure freshness but you can ask the fish monger to dress and clean them to have it ready for easy cooking at home. You don?t want to turn your fine kitchen into a mess doing the dressing of very slippery and fast-jumping animal (also translated ?can easily escape unskilled handler?) there by yourself and end up running after some of them the whole day. 🙂
I was in the middle of working on this tinolang palaka recipe when I found myself stumped. What category in my recipe index should I place “frogs”? Meat and Poultry? Fish and Seafood? I called out to G for assistance and his answer had me roaring in laughter. “I wouldn’t even classify them as food”. Dear readers, before you start agreeing with G, let me prod you out of your culinary boundaries and assure you that frog legs do taste like chicken. They have moist meat, soft bones and are as equally delicious in dishes you would otherwise use chicken. Give this tinolang palaka a try and let me know what you think.