The Contrarian Eats Frog
My ongoing adventure in Asia continues to subject my palate to new, exotic, and unconventional foods. Today I review a local frog dish. And, no, it tastes NOTHING like chicken!
It feels like yesterday as I was throwing widow makers into the woods to silence those damn bullfrogs.
Having finally sampled frog, it is with deep regret that I reflect on the idea that I could have enjoyed this delicacy, for long years now, had I just relocated those damn bullfrogs from the waters in the stream to the boiling water in a pot.
But that is the curse of having grown up in plentiful Africa and not having the savvy to benefit from the natural resources.
Take note that I am not advocating that anyone actually go and catch some frog, boil it, and eat it, because just like picking mushrooms, picking which frog(s) to eat is something that needs some expertise.
I had my frog local style in a hawker center in Chinatown: chopped up into unrecognizable parts and then cooked with a sticky and sweet ginger sauce in a clay pot.
The damage, S$8 – the price of a Big Mac meal at McDonalds.
In other hawker centers, frogs are as prominently displayed in the same way crabs are: alive and moving in the open in fish tanks. But at this particular hawker center, I did not have the advantage of seeing my dinner still partaking of life; the whole affair was neatly taken care of out of sight in the stall’s kitchen.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed about this, because I think we westerners should start taking some personal responsibility for the animals we eat; and nothing imparts a sense of guilt so quickly and thoroughly on you as pointing your finger at the living fish, crab, frog, or whatever that will be butchered and appear in front of you in a plate 20 minutes later.
This is a part of Asian culture that the West is easily upset by, and that’s because Westerners eat meat that comes from butchers and bare no semblance to the creatures that gave their lives to provide those chunks of protein and fat.
Needless to say, I did not have to psych myself up for this dish, because the smell of ginger pouring forth from the clay pot in which laid the diced up amphibian carcasses completely masked whatever natural smell frog has, and I have no idea what that smells like.
The ginger carried a thick, sweet scent with it, and that was all the encouragement I required to shove my chopsticks into the still piping hot clay pot and fish out a chunk of the good stuff swimming in the sauce.
I briefly inspected what definitely was frog thigh (high school biology still producing its benefits, just as my Biology teacher had promised years ago).
I pay much more attention to detail than most people do, and that is perhaps why everything does not look or taste like chicken to me.
I sucked the sauce off the frog thigh and inspected the clean meat. It is smoother and shinier than chicken, with no skin or fat/tendon visible.
When I took a bite, the meat did not tear like chicken meat does, instead it was flaky like fish.
The taste is NOTHING like chicken, and I would like to meet these people for whom everything tastes like chicken, because I’m sure a bit of interrogation will reveal that they never ate the weird things they claim to have eaten in far and foreign lands.
The closest comparison I can think of is a really decent quality cod fillet that has been pan fried. That has about the same consistency, texture, and taste as frog—though I’d have to try more frog dishes to see if this holds true universally for frog meat.
From the bits of anatomy that I could identify, I counted about 3 frogs in the pot, which I finished along with some other local dishes and a Carlsberg beer.
I left the hawker center feeling full and thoroughly satisfied with the experience, not to mention a new variety of meat added to the list of frequent cravings I have.
Singapore continues to satisfy my palette and help me overcome my Western phobia for protein that manifests in unconventional shapes. I am keen on trying turtle next.
If ever I find myself living in South Africa again, I am definitely undertaking a research in the local frog populations to see where I can subvert the taxman.
Those African bull frogs are enormous, meaty, and would definitely be a suitable accompaniment in what I hope would become a new favorite: Brulpadda Potjie.