Billions of frogs are being consumed annually, which is hardly surprising considering that this delicate meat is low in cholesterol and high in protein.
IBEGAN to suspect something was amiss. The bones were way too small and my cousins were smirking with apparent glee. Confused, I turned to my mother and asked as a 10-year old would: “Mum, why is this chicken so unusual?”
It turns out that my suspicions were not unwarranted – I wasn’t feeding on poultry as the others had led me to believe.
Thin kai is not “sweet chicken” but a variety of frogs favoured by the Chinese and some Asian communities. The literal translation of its name (from Cantonese to English) is “paddy chicken”.
Commonly found in wet paddy fields, swamps and streams, these amphibians are caught by professional frog catchers who can net 2,000 to 5,000 frogs in a single night.
It is hard to ascertain how many wild-caught frogs are being supplied to restaurants during a particular period but one thing is for sure – it is not enough.
Ken Choo, 36, co-owner of Geylang Lor 9 (a restaurant chain that serves frog dishes), says that supply tends to be inconsistent. “It’s impossible to catch so many,” he explains.
In addition, it is also more expensive. For example, while farmed American bullfrogs cost around RM10 per kg, wild frogs, at RM40 per kg, is four times the price. Roughly, four bullfrogs make up 1kg.
Therefore, thin kai is not as common as people may think. What they may assume to be thin kai could be ngau wa (bullfrog in Cantonese).
A restaurant like Geylang Lor 9 in SS2, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, replenishesishes its stock daily with 300 to 400 farmed bullfrogs. “Alive, the frogs can last for about a week if they are kept moist. We want to serve it fresh, so we don’t order more than we can use,” Choo says.
The frogs, which are delivered to the restaurant in trays of 30 on the back of a lorry, are killed via a quick snip of its head with a pair of scissors.sors. Its webbed feet, internal organs and skin are then removed, leaving a chunk of meat about the size of a piece of chicken breast.
When I ask the chef, Alex Ang, 27, if he feels squeamish at having to kill so many frogs in a day, he replies matter-of-factly: “It’s no different from killing fish ... or prawns.”
The frog is then cut into pieces and tossed into a claypot with a liberal amount of oyster sauce. If it is kung pao style, dried chilli and cili padi will be added, and after a drizzle of sesame oil, it will be left on the stove for five minutes.
“It shouldn’t be cooked longer than that because the meat will become tough,” Ang says.
The oyster sauce, adds Choo, is made from a secret recipe; it is purchased from the original Singapore Geylang frog porridge stall (who are also partners in Geylang Lor 9).
The Chinese have long held that frog meat is good for health. According to Choo, it is believed to purify the blood and is good for the complexion.
The scientific community sees frog meat as a low-cholesterol, protein-rich alternative, which is high in potassium, a mineral that is important in reducing the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Still, one of its prized traits is the texture, which has often been described as a cross between fish and chicken. I like to think of it as a firmer version of the carnivorous soon hock (marbled goby).
Many species of frogs have skin that is slightly toxic, so it is advisable to remove the skin before consuming the meat. For edible frogs, this slight toxicity does not pose a seri- ous problem, according to veterinarian Dr C.K. Lim. “It might cause some stomach discomfort but it won’t kill you,” he says.
What will kill you, however, are brightly coloured frogs whose skin serves as a warning to predators looking for a snack.
Check out the accompanying two recipes and see if you will be converted into a fan of frog meat.
Kung Pao Frog
Kung Pao frogs at Geylang Lor 9 in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, is cooked in claypot using dried and birdeye chillies, and a secretrecipe oyster sauce.
Frogs should be properly skinned before cooking, as their skin is slightly toxic.
Ken choo, co-owner of Geylang Lor 9 which serves frog meat as its speciality.