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Frog fallopian tubes, anyone? Business booming at Singapore's only frog farm

Hashima's growing popularity with diners has boosted business at Singapore's only frog farm

Frogs' legs are one thing, but how about slurping down the amphibians' fallopian tubes?

Many diners are happy to do just that - helping to boost sales at Singapore's only frog farm.

Called hashima, the delicacy is well known here, but some may not be aware which part of the animal it comes from.

And while it is traditionally imported from China, the home-grown version is enjoying a boom in popularity, spawned by growing numbers of restaurants and Chinese medicine halls choosing to go local.

The dish is usually sold as irregular dried pieces and rehydrated for use in local desserts such as "snow jelly".

Eight restaurants and shops told The Sunday Times they had either switched to local sources of hashima or started selling it.

They gave several reasons for wanting to buy the Singapore version, including rising prices of supplies from China, not being able to control the quality of overseas stock and a desire to support the local trade.

Medical hall Nam Huat Lee - which has two outlets - now sources 80 per cent of its hashima within Singapore.

Just last year, most of its supplies were from China.

Nam Huat owner Amos Peck said the Singapore frog farm offers comparable quality at much cheaper prices.

"The cost of supplies from China has risen over the past few years to between $70 and $100 a tael (37.5g)," said Mr Peck. The equivalent from Jurong Frog Farm costs just $40 to $60 per tael.

"Suppliers from China said that prices are going up because demand there is increasing," said Mr Peck, who is in his 50s. "If we buy from Singapore, we also have more control over quality. We can just tell them to change things if needed."

Fung Onn Medical Hall has stopped supplying the China version. Owner Chee Kim Boon, 42, claims that the local equivalent is of "better quality and has a firmer texture when cooked".

The Tanglin Halt store sells 20 packets of the product a month, up from 15 a month last year.

"More people know about it now. They call it the cheap bird's nest," said Mr Chee. Real bird's nest can cost about $100 per tael.

The shift to the local version of hashima has meant swift business at Jurong Frog Farm, which started harvesting and selling it in small quantities in 1999.

Demand skyrocketed last year, with sales of the dried product hitting 2,000 packets - double the amount sold in 2011. The farm also started rehydrating and bottling hashima for sale last October.

It has since sold close to 3,000 bottles so far.

Plans are under way to sell bottles of hashima at FairPrice by the end of the year, said farm manager Chelsea Wan.

Ms Wan conducts food tours at the farm. "These help to create a base of customers and, after that, people just started recommending us to others," she said.

Finance manager Jade Tan, 29, said she started buying local hashima after tasting it on the farm. She now eats it once a month.

"I used to eat the Chinese version. But the local type is better. The chunks are bigger and you feel you are getting more."

limjess@sph.com.sg