Throughout Vietnam, Glyphoglossus molossus, or the balloon frog is not popular. However, in Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận provinces where the Champa ethnic people live, the bull frog is considered a delicacy food. In fact, some Vietnamese are even frightened at this, even though common frogs are normal in Vietnamese cuisine. Balloon frogs are amphibians, living in sand dunes or at the foot of mountains – where there are loose sandy soils. Their favorite foods are winged termites and low-flying insects.
Glyphoglossus molossus is known as ếch òn in the local language which refers to the sound that the balloon frog makes. Champa (Vietnamese: Chăm) people consider balloon frogs as a rare delicacy because you can only taste this unique flavor only once a year. The frog meat is said to be possess a ecstatic and seductive aftertaste. The name “ếch òn” comes from the frog sound when they call to attract mates. In Vietnamese language, common frogs will cry “ộp ộp“, but these balloon frogs sound differently. They do not sing alone, but sing in unison. This is also a signal for frog hunters to know for sure where the balloon frogs live.
Catching balloon frogs
When the first rains of the raining season fall, hundreds and thousands of frogs lie on the ground, in moist caves along rivers and streams, on the banks of fields, under the leaves of trees, emerging to find food, mate and lay eggs. At this time, people can catch the whole pair. Hard-working catchers can catch 200-300 frogs a night. Balloon frogs are bolder at night than during the day.
Champa people catch balloon frogs only in May and June of the year, so the food is quite rare. Balloon frog meat is sweet, fragrant, with soft bones, so it is especially popular in drinking parties with friends and family. The meat is also very nutritious and high-protein.
With the skillful hands of the Champa people in Ninh Thuận, balloon frogs are made into many different dishes such as boil, grill, sour soup or salad… Each cooking method will bring out its own unique flavor. Grilled frog is the easiest and the most popular dish.
In Bình Thuận province, balloon frog meat can be made into many dishes, such as: frog porridge, deep-fried frogs, grilled frogs with spring onion oil, steamed frogs with lemongrass, and braised frogs with black pepper. The two most popular dishes are: frog sour hot pot and frog sausages.
Grilled Balloon Frogs
Wild-caught balloon frogs are rinsed with warm water to clean the mucus layer on the body skin, then dried on a sunny day to make the taste “standard”. When grilling frogs over charcoal flame, the aroma of grilled frog meat will spread in the air, boosting the temptation of both chefs and diners. This dish will be served with tamarind fish sauce, wild curry leaves and chili.
Balloon Frog Soup
In addition to grilled dishes, home cooks can make sour frog soup with tamarind leaves. This dish is a bit complicated. After preliminarily cleaned, each frog is cut into small pieces, marinated with shallots, black pepper, sugar, and fish sauce. After a few minutes to absorb the spices, stir-fry the frog meat in the oil and then bring the broth to a boil. Add a roasted rice, tomato wedges, chopped young tamarind leaves. Wait for for a second boil and season to taste and enjoy. The soup has the sour taste of young tamarind leaves, the aroma of roasted rice, the rich umami of frog meat.
Balloon Frog Hot Pot
Balloon frogs are scrubbed with salt (or ginger) to reduce the viscosity, and boiled in boiling water. The intestines and the offal are removed while the rest is fully utilized. Young tamarind leaves cooked in hot and sour hot pot are considered as top-notch, simple but delicious. The hot pot broth is described as sweet, spicy, and sour, and is served with rice vermicelli (Vietnamese: bún) and soft frog meat. Crunching frog bones in the mouth and sipping a little wine in the cold atmosphere of the first rain of the season is nothing happier.
Balloon Frog Salad
Perhaps due to the scarcity of balloon frogs, the Chăm people create the ball frog salad dish with a mixture of many wild vegetables, in order to ensure the delicious taste without the need for many frogs. Boiled and chopped frogs are mixed with typical forest vegetables of Ninh Thuận’s sunny and windy areas such as cóc leaves (Spondias dulcis), curry leaves, etc., and other common spices. Enjoying frog salad and sipping a few cups of wine in the cool of the first rain of the season is nothing more interesting.
In addition, balloon frogs are also preserved by sun-drying. The frog intestines are removed, and the frog meat is sun-dried for about 2 days, with or without being salted. Dried balloon frogs are often crispy-fried or grilled, and served with tamarind fish sauce (or fresh lemon fish sauce) with a few slices of spicy chili. Sometimes the frog skins are peeled separately. Many diners think that the deep-fried dried frog skin (after being soaked in boiling water) is just as great as any other dish.