Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ginataang Palaka o Gatang Palaka A La Lalaine (Froglegs Cooked in Coconut Milk)

Frog tastes like chicken. You heard that before, right? Of course when I state that phrase (or sentence), it is more of a personal account rather than a generally accepted fact or knowledge. Many would of course offer disagreements in various forms. We are bound to respect that. But for me and the many people that I knew or talked to and who have tasted and enjoyed the rather exotic meat, this will remain the case. The tender white flesh with fine texture of the uncommon meat called frog and sometimes marketed as “froglegs” have taste and flavors very similar to that of the chicken.

This is the main reason why most Filipino techniques of cooking chicken like, “prito” (fried), “tinola” (stewed with ginger and papaya), simple “adobo” (braised/stewed in vinegar and soy sauce) or “adobo sa dilaw” (braised in vinegar and turmeric) and “ginataan” (cooked in coconut milk), to name a few, all works well with frog meat. In fact, I have already featured here a “tinola” version of frogs called “tinolang palaka”. As a follow-up to that post, I would like to feature another chicken-like cooking preparation that is called “ginataang palaka” (froglegs cooked in coconut milk). Since this is a variant of the popular “ginataang manok” earlier shared by our friend Lalaine, there is no better person to do the dish other than Lalaine herself. Clap … clap … clap!

As mentioned before, the tasty and nutritious edible frogs, even though not generally considered or accepted as major food item worldwide, are consumed in thousands of tons annually in several countries like France in Europe and China, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and of course my beloved Philippines in Asia. Although not really popular as table fare throughout the Philippines, it is widely caught during its season and especially served as viand in Central Luzon areas and “pulutan” or bites or appetizer over a bottle of favorite beer, wine or hard liquor elsewhere in other provinces.

Simply fried and “adobo-style” are probably the most preferred method of cooking frog when it is intended (as it usually is) to be served with alcoholic beverages among “barkada” or male friends. It is even tastier when using personally caught frogs by the group, usually the night before. But with the Internet taking much of our night time, this is now difficult to do except probably in the far-flung provinces. :-))

My happy childhood memories of the unusual meat are actually not limited to just eating but also catching them ……… usually from the wet rice fields just before rice planting or from farms, grassland, marsh land and even river banks during rainy season. I experienced catching them by rod and line pretty much like fishing, by spooking with strong lights at night time and slightly hitting with a long stick to immobilize or on several occasions by out maneuvering and grasping them with bare hands. The last one is quite tricky and I have not been very successful though. :-)

If catching frogs is already difficult, dressing, gutting and cleaning the sleek and slimy animal is an additional burden. Lucky for us that fish-monger at the market is now willing to do the dirty job and just provide buyers with already dressed frogs which just require minimal washing at home. :)

Even luckier are people living in Europe like Lalaine who could easily buy boxed and frozen froglegs that are all-cleaned and ready for cooking directly, from the comfort of cozy supermarkets. :-)

For this dish, we need about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of froglegs or dressed frogs. When in the Philippines, the tastier and tenderer but smaller native variety is highly recommended. Their meat is yellowish in color. But since Lalaine and friends are in London, this larger bullfrog with its whiter meat is her best option.

The other ingredients needed are: 1 head garlic, crushed and chopped, 1 large onion, peeled and chopped, 1 tsp peppercorn, freshly cracked or ground, 1 tsp salt or to taste, 3 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar or to taste, 6 pcs finger chilies, 2 chopped and 4 kept whole, 2 small chayote, peeled and cut to serving sizes and 1 can or about 500 ml or 2 cups coconut milk.

As unselfishly thought to us by Lalaine in her “ginataang manok”, the secret process to this recipe is the use of some coconut milk to extract oil for sautéing and at the same time creating the fragrant coconut milk curdles or “latik” to be incorporated in the dish. This is really awesome!

In a large wok or large pan or heavy bottomed casserole, heat ½ cup of the coconut milk on low flame. Continue cooking with regular stirring until the coconut milk starts to curdle, renders its own oil (“naglalangis o naglalatik”) and becomes fragrant or aromatic.

When the coconut oil and “latik” are evident, add in garlic and continue frying until slightly browned. Add in onion and continue sautéing until translucent.

At this point, add the froglegs and continue cooking with occasional stirring until the frog renders its own liquid. Continue simmering until the meat is partially cooked through. Add in freshly ground pepper and continue cooking.

Add in chayote and chopped chilies. When the vegetables are cooked through, season it with salt and some more ground pepper if you like. Lower the heat and add the remaining coconut milk and continue simmering with the lid off.

Pour in vinegar followed by adding in sugar. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add in whole chilies and continue cooking until they are cooked through and sauce is reduced and has thickened to a gravy-like consistency.

Transfer the dish in serving plates, garnish with whole chilies and serve with lots of steamed rice. Like most “ginataan” recipes, the dish is creamy, delicious and yes …… so steamed rice-demanding. :-)

Lalaine and her soon to be “inaanak” Joan are in constant diet but they decided to take a day off for the dish. With viand as delightful as “ginataang palaka” a la Lalaine, heaps and heaps of rice is something really unavoidable …… okay, make that necessary. Enjoy! c“,)

1 comment:

  1. Hi!

    I just borrowed your picture for my post... I wish to share some of the recipes you have here as well. I hope you won't mind?




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