Monday, November 10, 2014

Spicy Frog and Lemongrass (serves 2)

spicy frog and lemongrass
Frog and lemongrass is a popular dish in Vietnam especially in the Mekong Delta where frogs are abundant...at least they were when I was a child. I remember going to the market with my mother or grandmother and there would be bamboo buckets containing hundreds of small live frogs for sale. These were mainly used for fishing baits. At the same market there were other larger frogs for sale, but for cooking. My brother, Dan and I used to fish often as children in Vietnam in the many hand-dug ponds (by my father and a few hired workers) on our property. My father released many baby fish in them so we have plenty of fish to catch and eat. We had so many ponds that we (children) would stake claim on these (ponds). Without much thought to our usual routine we hooked the frog by the thigh and throw the line in the water. Soon a large fish would bite, sometimes we both had to pull it out of the water (since some are too large for me to pull myself) and then bring home to our mother. We only would catch enough for one meal since we did not have refrigeration. Looking back the idea of using live frogs for bait seemed unusually cruel, even though it's not any different than using live fish to hook another larger fish as we do here in the United States. As an adult I returned to Vietnam a number of times and I have never seen any small live frogs for sale. I often wonder the reason for this.  Perhaps they have become extinct or people are no longer using them for baits due to over fishing.

I remember my mother bought the larger frogs at the market to cook. Years ago you would buy whole live frogs and then you have to prepare them yourself when you get home. My mother skinned the frog and gave it to me.  She taught me to wrap the skin around a tin can and sun dry it. The drying process in the tropical heat is quick; the exact time I do not recall. Once completely dried the skin becomes taunt making a nice drum. I had few toys as a child and this was something I remember making many times with much enthusiasm. 

Nowadays both here in the States and in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) many of the large frogs are already prepared when you buy them from the market. In Vietnam often time you will find 2-3 live skinless and headless frogs at the market tied together per bunch. Why live? So the customers walking pass can see with their own eyes their true freshness. I am sure it's not a scene for everyone. Even I have a hard time looking at them. All I can say is that if you plan on visiting some food markets in some parts of Asia be prepared to be very upset and even horrified. Perhaps if you are prepared for the worst then nothing you see will be all that bad. I bought my exceptionally large frog legs in frozen packages from a store in Boston called Savenor's. They came in 2 pairs per package, weighing 0.59 and 0.75 pound. I have no idea how these frogs got so large....and frankly I am afraid to ask! I thawed them in my refrigerator overnight and dejointed the legs into pieces for easy cooking. Frog legs are very lean and quick to cook. Here is my spicy frog and lemongrass that I ate with couscous and Brussels sprouts...which is not a typical way for me to eat it. I normally eat this with rice and some other greens to dip into the sauce. However, I had a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts and tricolor couscous that needed to be eaten. 

large frog legs (from Savenor's market in Boston)
dejointed frog legs
onion wedges, chopped lemongrass and garlic
Spicy Frog and Lemongrass (serves 2)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 large lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in wedges
4 pairs of large frog legs (came to 1.3 lbs), washed, drained, and dejointed
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp good chicken powder
1/2 tsp home-made or store bought sate chili sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp of sesame oil
1/2-1 tsp home-made or store bought sate chili sauce oil (or use according to your taste), garnish

Method:

1) Heat a pot or pan over medium high heat. Once the pot or pan is hot add oil. Add lemongrass, garlic and onion. Saute about 4-5 minutes.
2) Add frog legs.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes (try to keep the larger pieces as close to the bottom of the pan or pot to help them cook through).
3) Add oyster sauce, chicken powder, sate chili sauce, sugar, black pepper and sesame oil. Cook for about another 5 minutes or until the largest piece of frog is cooked through.
4) Remove from heat. Drizzle sate chili sauce oil on top.

*I am not going to tell you that frog legs taste like chicken. However, if you do not want to use frogs or have no access to frog legs then you may use chicken. It's best if you can use chicken thighs with the bones in.

a stalk of Brussels sprouts
spicy frog and lemongrass served with
tricolor couscous and steamed Brussels sprouts
I posted this set of sculptures in the past.
I like it because it reminded me of Dan and me
fishing back in the days when we lived in Vietnam...
this guy looked just like him when he was little and
he was always the one that caught the fish!
*There are many ways to eat this delicious Spicy Frog and Lemongrass dish besides the traditional way. You can remove the frog meat and make nice sandwiches. You can use toasted baguette pieces to dip into the sauce or even eat it with some rice noodles.

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