By Catherine Zuckerman
Frog: It’s what’s for dinner. Frog fallopian tubes, to be exact. On a recent episode of The Amazing Race, contestants jetted off to Shanghai and had to down a Chinese delicacy known as hasma. Described as “frog fallopian tubes,” the meal looked daunting—picture a mound of small, milky-white, jiggling blobs. To kick the challenge up a notch, teams were forbidden to eat with anything other than chopsticks. Mounded into a bright orange papaya half, the dish had a certain visual pop, but its unnerving main ingredient gave it a disagreeable vibe.
We here at National Geographic were intrigued. What does hasma taste like? Why fallopian tubes and not legs, which are the frog part of choice in France?
The first thing we learned is that nailing down a definition for this dish is tough. Some websites describe hasma as frog ovaries, while others refer to it as the fatty tissue around the reproductive system. On The Amazing Race, the definition was fallopian tubes. One thing sources seem to agree on is the species from which hasma is made: the snow frog known as Xueha, which lives in the Changbai mountains of northeast China.
According to Chinese cooking authority Fuchsia Dunlop (whose book, Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, is now available in the UK and will reach the US in February), hasma, which is the name of the slightly mysterious frog part, is sold in dried form and has the look and feel of rough amber. “It is prepared by a long soaking in cold water, which causes it to expand dramatically into clouds of translucent, slithery, gelatinous matter,” she explains. Once prepared, hasma tends to be used in soups and stews and is often sweetened with sugar.
If that sounds unappetizing, consider that in China, hasma is regarded as a health food and is believed to offer a range of benefits: increased energy, clearer complexion, even restored strength after childbirth. Hasma is also beloved by the Chinese for the texture it achieves once cooked. “It has a gorgeous, voluptuous, slithery, soft mouth feel,” says Dunlop. What it doesn’t have, she adds, is any taste or odor.
Hasma is relatively expensive so is reserved for special occasions and high-end restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try whipping up a batch at home. If you can manage to get your hands on this curious edible, try it in this traditional recipe—and unlike the Amazing Race contestants, you can use a spoon. NOTE: This recipe has been translated from a Chinese food blog called Xiaomi, or Little Rice, and offers a rough idea of how to prepare this dish. Due to the unavailability of hasma in our local supermarket, we were not able to test this recipe.
Hasma with Papaya and Milk
1) Soak hasma overnight or four hours, remove dirt, wash and put in boiling water for a few minutes, remove from boiling water, drain well.
2) Wash the whole papaya well, cut 2/5 from top and use it as a cover. Remove all seeds and flesh from the large half of papaya, then place it in a porcelain baking dish that is fitted with a lid.
3) Wash goji berries and soak in water, wash hasma clean.
4) Add rock sugar to some of the milk and boil until sugar has dissolved. Add hasma and boil for 30 minutes, add the rest of the milk, wait until it boils, then pour all ingredients into the papaya, cover the porcelain baking dish and load it into a steamer. Steam for 30 minutes. Serve.