Premna serratifolia (Vietnamese: cách, lá cách or vọng cách) is a small tree/shrub in the family Lamiaceae. Its leaves has some medicinal use in Vietnamese traditional medicine and are also used as herbs in Vietnamese cuisine. Cách leaves can be eaten raw as salad herbs in fish salad dish, and bánh xèo, a Vietnamese pancake. The leaves are also added to braise or stir fry dishes, especially when combined with eels, frogs, and chicken. When cách leaves are at high temperature, they are fragrant and efficient in removing the fishiness of food, hence making food more delicious.
The dish Fried Frogs With Cách Leaves (Ếch Xào Lá Cách) is popular in southern Vietnam. When cách leaves are not available, lolot leaves (Piper lolot, Vietnamese: lá lốt, often mistaken as betel leaves) is a good substitute. The dish is often cooked with coconut milk to enrich the sweetness and fattiness.
Step by step method
Prepping the frogs
Remove the frog heads, skins, offal, tendons. Rinse the frog meat with a solution of water and vinegar or rice wine with crushed ginger to remove the blood stains and fishy odor. Rinse again with pure water, and chop the frogs into bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl, add frog meat, then 2 tablespoons of minced shallots, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of msg, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder then toss up and get marinated in 10 mins.
Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a pan, add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic to sauté. Add frog meat and stir-fry for 3 mins until the frog meat shrinks. Next, add coconut juice and cook for 5 mins until the sauce thickens. Finally, add cách leaves and stir evenly.
The stir-fried frog dish should have the mild sweetness of the grog meat, the fattiness of coconut juice and the buttery taste of the Premna serratifolia leaves. Serve the dish with rice or bánh mì baguette.
Tips & variations
Lolot leaves can be used as a substitution for Premna serratifolia leaves.
Vietnamese cuisine is the method of cooking, the principle of mixing spices and the general dining habits of all Vietnamese people in Vietnam. With a unique geography, climate, and cultural exchange, the cuisine of Vietnam is extremely diverse and rich. The characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine is the focus on the freshness, so Vietnamese dishes are generally perceived as delicious and healthy.