Read so much about it, but never tried. Till now.
I’ve eaten frogs before in a Chinese restaurant in London. They called it “water chicken” there and I savored the dish without suspecting “water chicken” = frog. Not bad. In fact, I liked it. But I have not repeated that experience since. Till now.
In a recent trip to Pampanga, lunch was in a place called Apag Marangle in Bacolor. Literally translated as “hain sa bukid”, or dining in the farm, this 4 year old restaurant is located along the old Olongapo-Gapan Road (now JASA) in Bacolor, Pampanga. Fast gaining popularity for its authentic Kapampangan dishes, the native cottages lining a man-made fishpond with grazing ducks add just the right touch.
Pampanga is regarded as the culinary capital of the Philippines. One story goes that the Muslim royalty driven out of Manila settled here with their royal household. Another version is that many Spanish friars who oversaw the construction of several 17th century churches here had their own coterie of artisans and kitchen masters. I’m more inclined to believe the former story, quite unable to imagine the likes of Padre Damaso feasting on frogs and crickets.
Unlike the frogs served in London, the Kapampangan frog dish had no pretensions. The frog — called “tugak” — was served skewered, 3 to a stick. There is also the stuffed version (“Betute”) but I went for tugak 😪. No one wanted to share the dish with me. But I had company when the mole crickets were served. Boiled in vinegar and garlic, then sautéed in chopped tomatoes and onions. Crunchy at first bite, moist inside. Again, no pretensions in serving this bug dish called kamaru or kamaro. Never disguised. They all looked like they were crawling just moments before they were served. Awwwww 😣😢😝
You don’t need a stomach made of steel to try these exotic dishes from this foodie province. Just a lot of spunk and “fear factor-ish” sense of adventure. Don’t worry, there is no scratchy texture to the cricket dish. Why, you ask? The cook makes sure they have rendered the mole crickets lame by removing the legs and wings. Aww! 😣😢😓
To be sure, order some other non-exotic Kapampangan dishes in Apag Marangle. The grilled seafood and steamed vegetables served with buro (fermented rice) perfectly complement Tugak and Kuliglig. And the carnivores can still satisfy their Lechon Kawali fix served with liver sauce while deciding whether to order the more exotic Betute. I opted out. Stuffed with minced pork before deep-frying, the dish looks like an oversized, obese frog to me. 😢😣😜. Much unlike its skewered cousins who can do with some muscle toning. 😱
On our way out of Apag Marangle, we spotted some reddish thingy clinging to the bamboo poles and rocks. We were told they were snail eggs. We dared not ask if they were edible! 😝😝😝