Frog legs are one of the better-known delicacies of French and Chinese cuisine. The legs of edible frogs are also consumed in other parts of the world, including Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, northern Italy, the Alentejo region of Portugal, Spain, Albania, Slovenia, the northwest Greece, the Kerala state of India and the Southern regions of the United States. As of 2014, the world's largest exporter of frogs is Indonesia, also a large consumer. In such regions as Brazil, Mexico and the Caribbean, many frogs are still caught wild.
Frog legs are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and potassium. They are often said to taste like chicken because of their mild flavor, with a texture most similar to chicken wings. The taste and texture of frog meat is approximately between chicken and fish. Frogs are raised commercially in certain countries, e.g. Vietnam. Frog muscles do not resolve rigor mortis as quickly as muscles from warm-blooded animals (chicken, for example) do, so heat from cooking can cause fresh frog legs to twitch.
Each year about US$40 million worth of frog legs are traded internationally, with most countries in the world participating in this trade. The world's top importers of frogs legs are France, Belgium and the United States, while the biggest international exporters are Indonesia and China. While these figures do not account for domestic consumption, when production from frog farms is taken into account, it is conservatively estimated that humans consume up to 3.2 billion frogs for food around the world every year.
Movement of live or unfrozen, unskinned amphibians is a potential way for deadly amphibian diseases such as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Ranavirus to be transported around the world, and despite recommendations on preventing disease spread from the OIE, which regulates the international spread of epizootic diseases, few countries have adopted these recommendations as law.
Many environmentalists urge the restriction of frog consumption—especially those harvested from the wild—because amphibian populations are declining and frogs are an essential element of ecosystems. Conservationists warn that gastronomic demand for frogs is seriously depleting regional populations. Frogs are sensitive to environmental changes, disease, habitat degradation, and pollution.
Frog meat is considered as haraam (non-halal) according to mainstream Islamic dietary laws. Frog meat is not halal for two reasons: the meat to be consumed should not be considered disgusting, and frogs, together with ants, bees, and seabirds, are animals that should not be killed by Muslims. This haraam status has caused controversy in Demak, Indonesia, where the authorities urged the swikee restaurant owners not to associate swikee with Demak city, since it would tarnish Demak's image as the first Islamic city in Java, and also opposed by its inhabitants that mainly follow Shafi'i school that forbids the consumption of frogs. Within Islamic dietary law there are some debates and differences about the consumption of frog legs. The mainstream Islamic madhhab (school) of Shafi'i, Hanafi and Hanbali strictly forbids the consumption of frogs, but according to the Maliki school only on certain type of frogs may be eaten; the green frog commonly found in rice fields, while other species especially those with blistered skin are considered poisonous and unclean, thus should not be consumed.
In world cuisines
Frog legs or cuisses de grenouille are a traditional dish particularly found in the region of the Dombes (département of Ain). Widespread consumption of frog's legs is relatively recent, occurring within the last two hundred years.
The dish is also common in French-speaking parts of Louisiana, particularly the Cajun areas of Southern Louisiana and New Orleans; they were introduced to New Orleans by Donat Pucheu. Only the upper joint of the hind leg is served, which has a single bone similar to the upper joint of a chicken or turkey wing. They are commonly prepared by frying or deep frying, sometimes being breaded prior.
In Indonesian cuisine, frog-leg soup is known as swikee or swike, most probably brought by the Chinese community in Indonesia and popular in Chinese Indonesian cuisine. Swikee is mainly frog-leg soup with a strong taste of garlic, gingers, and fermented soya beans (tauco), accompanied with celery or parsley leaves. Swikee is a typical dish from Purwodadi Grobogan, in Central Java province. There are also frog-legs fried in margarine and sweet soy sauce or tomato sauce, battered and deep fried, grilled, or frog eggs served in banana leaves (pepes telur kodok). The Javanese also eat dried and crisply fried frog skin. The taste is similar to fried fish skin.
Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of frog meat, exporting more than 5,000 tonnes of frog meat each year, mostly to France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Most supply of frog legs in western Europe originate from frog farms in Indonesia; however, there is concern that frog legs from Indonesia are poached from wild frog populations that may be endangering wild amphibians.
Frogs are a common food in the northern part of Italy, especially throughout Piemonte and Lombardy and within these two regions especially in the Vercelli area in Piemonte and in the Pavia and Lomellina area in Lombardy. In these places frogs are part of the ancient culinary tradition and a typical staple food. Consumption of frogs is mainly relatable to the availability of the animals due to the rural activities and typical agriculture in these places. It is unclear whether the tradition to consume frogs had been originated during French domain so imported by the French or if it was prior to that and just due to the fact of the large presence of frogs in these areas.
The large presence of frogs is mainly due to the agriculture typical of these areas which has always been known for their famous rice, in fact being rice so largely cultivated it's right because of the rice fields and the large presence of artificial water channels systems used to flood rice fields during growth that makes for frogs a perfect habitat. During the growth period when fields stays flooded and even more during the draining of the fields farmers and people generally are used to gather and go frog hunting armed with a net, some towns even organize collective hunting sessions and games.
Frogs gained much culinary relevance in these areas, many rural towns host food festivals called sagre centered on frogs and where frogs are prepared in various ways, they typically happen during rice fields emptying period. Being frogs consumption strictly related to famous rice production and being these the native lands of the Italian dish named risotto, one of the most common dishes is indeed risotto with frogs, risotto alle rane, other ways frogs are typically served are dipped in egg batter, breadcrumb and then fried or in soups and stews.
Frog legs (žabji kraki) are a popular dish in Slovenian cuisine, especially in areas of eastern Slovenia (Prekmurje and north-eastern Styria). They are also quite popular in the country's capital, Ljubljana, and have been considered as the "basis of the traditional city cuisine of Ljubljana". Up to modern times, they have been traditionally considered Lent food, and were especially popular in spring. They are also a popular traditional dish in the Vipava Valley in western Slovenia and are served in numerous restaurants in the Slovenian Littoral.
Frog legs are popular in some parts of Croatia, especially in the Gorski kotar region in the northwest of the country. They are considered a specialty in the Lokve municipality, where they are served cooked, fried or in a stew, sometimes with polenta on the side.
In the western part of Spain, Extremadura and Castilla y Leon, frog legs are served deep fried. They are a delicacy among its citizens. Frog legs also have great culinary value on the sides of the Ebro.
In Albania, frog legs are regarded as a very delicious food. Frogs are mostly collected from the wild.
Frog legs are eaten in parts of the Southern United States, particularly in the Deep South and Gulf states where French influence is more prominent, including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They are also eaten in Eastern states, but not as commonly. The most common kinds of frogs eaten are bullfrogs and leopard frogs, as these are abundant in most of the country, including the South. Although the consumption of wild native frogs is generally discouraged, the harvest and cooking of invasive bullfrogs, especially in the Western US, has been encouraged as a form of control and to promote local cuisine.
Some methods of cooking include egg/cracker crumb breading or battered. They are either fried or grilled. Deep fried frog legs can also be found at fairs.
Cooked bones of frog legs have been discovered in an archaeological dig in Amesbury Wiltshire, dating back to between 7596 and 6250 BC, evidence that indicates that they were part of the local diet. Some view this as evidence that Britons started eating them before the French.
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