Strange Foods Pt.3: Balut

For those of you who aren't vegetarian or vegan, I assume you've had eggs before. If not egg, you've probably had some kind of poultry. So why do people shy away from this Southeast Asian delicacy if it's nothing more than the middle ground between a chick and an egg.

Ah yes.

I forgot.

This is why everyone cringes at the thought of de-shelling a Balut: 

Picture of a half opened Balut

The veiny, partially incubated duck egg looks very unappetizing to say the least. However, millions of people have no trouble popping one of these suckers into their pie-hole. 

The traditional method of cooking Balut is simply hard boiling the damn thing, cracking it open, and throwing it back before you're able to identify if that crunch was the beak or a half-formed claw. The taste itself is pretty mild compared to it's visual contrast. There's clear liquid that seeps out from the cracks, reminiscent of seasoned chicken broth. The yolk is a bit like a hard boiled egg that's been boiled a little too long. And then there's the embryo itself.... which isn't too bad if you ignore the foreign textures your mouth isn't used to. 

In the Philippines it's garnished with a dab of vinegar, a little salt, and some chili and garlic depending on your personal preference. Although it's notoriety in America is known as, "that weird egg thing that was on Fear Factor," most of the Filipino's I know aren't too keen on eating it.This common street food is often eaten at night to ease the discomfort of having to look inside the duck eggs, which shows that even locals can be a little scared of it too. 

Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of Balut spreads further than just the Philippines. The food itself may have its roots in China, but it can also easily be found in places such as Cambodia, Vietnam, and dispersed throughout South East Asia. 

In America, some oriental markets may sell it for around dollar a pop, while in Asia, you may find one for around 10 - 25 cents USD. Because of how inexpensive this street snack is, some locals are starting to forgo the embryo, partially because of the popularization of Western food, and also because Balut is a food often associated with poverty. 

However, for every Filipino American household, it's much more than that. Not only is it a delicacy, it's a good hazing ritual for the unsuspecting non-Filipino. 

It's a wicked past time for all of the elders. Take a non Filipino in the group, present the egg, and if they finish it — that's basically a blessing for marriage. 

My sister's husband Anthony had to go through the test, and so did my boyfriend and many others. 

Picture: Anthony exhibiting the 5 stages of grief in matter of 9 seconds. He ate a second egg after this one, proving to be a worthy provider for his future partner. I'm happy to say he passed the test with flying colors. 

Strange enough, when I was younger I had no problem eating Balut. It's funny how you have so little self preservation and social tact as a child. At that age my palate wasn't refined enough to differentiate what texture was gross and which flavor wasn't. As I got older, so did my taste buds.I was able to properly differentiate the yolk from the feathered wing, soft beak, and squishy eyeball. That was when I could no longer eat a Balut like I once used to.

Imagine taking your first vodka shot from a plastic handle, the youth and tenacity of a young adult, how a body was able to take drink after drink after drink of cheap poison—And then you find yourself in your thirties, taking a deep breath and saying a short prayer for that over-priced shot your friends peer pressured into taking with them. That experience pretty much sums up my sad descent into my tumultuous relationship with the eggy delicacy. 

Balut is one of the foods where it's (visual) bark is truly worse than it's bite. It's a little tougher then a yolk, a little more bone than I'm used too, and pretty tasty if you can get past the texture. All in all, a great protein packed snack on your way to work. 

Just don't stare into those soulless unborn duck eyes, you're good to go!


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