Tuesday evening, I get a phone call from an excited Mrs. Lillian Borromeo. A leading TV network will be taping a segment at her home in Mexico, Pampanga and she needs a few one-pot meal recipes that make use of rice as a main ingredient.

Rice, the staff of life in this part of the world. How very Filipino, how very Asian. We find no difficulty listing recipes and then proceed to eliminate those that are too common and those that require too much effort. The eminent people on the dining table (meaning my mother and aunts) help us with the listing, perhaps giving us a wide range of choices that date back to the Second World War. You can imagine how long a list we had – given the length and depth of history we had collectively, hehehe!

Rice is known to have been present in the Philippines since pre-historic era. From that time to this day, rice is not only an everyday staple, but figures in our major celebrations and rituals.

Rice is such a versatile ingredient that it not only serves as backbone of every Filipino meal but can be found in different forms: as a contrast to savoury food, dessert, snacks and what have you.

For the taping, Mrs. Borromeo and I decided on the classic celebratory biringhe, the less common lelut tugac, the historical quisa and a few others. For today’s recipe, we bring you lelut tugac, which is said to be a restorative for those who are sick since it is rich in carbohydrates and protein.

I often hear it said that creatures not commonly found in modern marketplaces, a.k.a. exotica, are alternative protein sources since chicken and other more conventional meat has become more expensive. I posit that for Capampangans, they are not really alternatives because they have always been there. We have always been consuming frogs, snails, snakes, monitor lizards, mole crickets, locusts and other gifts of God’s bounty. Recent scientific studies would even show that they were the first protein sources, prior to the domestication of farm animals.

Nowadays, when frogs have become a rarity and as they’re more expensive – PhP 60.00 for fourteen pieces at the Sta. Rita Public Market and a whopping PhP 70.00 for five pieces at the Mexico Public Market – lelut tugac is considered a novelty, if not a treat. For those who are not grenouille connoisseurs, it doesn’t taste too far from your regular lelut manuc or arroz caldo. With the same condiments and garnishings, it’s simply sublime.

Lelut Tugac

10 pieces medium-sized frogs, skinned and cleaned
1 (gatang) cup rice, washed
1 head garlic, crushed
1 thumb-sized ginger, crushed
1 small onion (optional) salt to taste
2 tbsp. cooking oil
5 cups of water

Heat oil in a pot, preferably clay. Saute the garlic for three minutes or till golden brown. Add the ginger and stir gently (add the onion if you’re using any). Add the frogs and sweat till opaque. Add half a teaspoon of salt and a cup of water then simmer.

Take out the frogs and add the rice. Pour another two cups of water and let the rice cook. Keep adding water if the mixture dries up. There should be a good measure of liquid (sanapsanapan) left while simmering. Add back the frogs as soon as the rice is tender. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with fried garlic, chopped onion leaves and calamansi. For a more opulent lelut tugac, an egg and some crushed chicharon can help hit the spot!


For the other Capampangan recipes we prepared, watch SAPULSO on Monday, 26 February 2007 at 10:00 p.m. on QTV 11.

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