Thursday, October 20, 2011

Balut: Not for the Faint of Heart

As per Wikipedia:

A balut is a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell.
Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut are mostly sold by street vendors in the regions where they are available. It is commonly sold as streetfood in the Philippines.
This is similar to what I saw that day.
So, back when I was a toddler, I remember being extremely excited when my mom came home with a bag of these bad boys from the Filipino Store. It wasn't often, just once every few months. I remember jumping around excitedly, waiting for it to boil so I could crack it open, suck out the clear broth on the inside, soak the rest of it in the chili vinegar and down it like I was starving!

Sometime when I was about 10 or so, I remember my mom opening one up for me and handing me the contents. Then, I saw it. A DUCK FETUS!!!!! How I never saw it's poor little head all curled up around it's body before that day is beyond me. But, I remember jumping back, screaming, and running away in horror, sick to my stomach that I EVER found this monstrosity to delectable. I felt like a monster...I was eating baby ducks and loving it!!!

Fast forward about 20 years, it's gotten much easier to get a hold of these babies. My mom has bought it several times over, and I can easily find a bowl of freshly boiled eggs sitting on the table. What gives them away and keeps them from getting mixed up with regular unfertilized chicken eggs is that they are slightly larger and have a bit of a tan/greenish hue to the shell.

Monday, feeling a little ill and hungry with nothing readily available to eat at my house, I spotted a fresh pot of balut on the counter. I plopped one in a shallow bowl of water and stuck it in the microwave for 45 seconds. I did this for two reasons. One, obviously, was to warm it up without making it explode. Secondly, I don't know how well they clean the eggs after snatching them from the momma duck. Duck butt, duck thanks. I'll just have the embryo, if you don't mind.....So the microwave warm up serves to clean it a little further. I also rub the hell out of it with a paper towel afterwards. Better safe than sorry!

We're going to get graphic here. So, stop while you still can!!!!!!

I made a little dunking sauce of soy sauce, chili rice vinegar, and a little garlic. I grabbed my camera and went to work....

The Egg

Chili Vinegar & Soy Sauce w/ the Egg

CRACK! And suck out the soup!
(Probably best if you don't look while sucking.)

First Sight!! Obviously, this embryo isn't as developed
as the top picture. And that's fine with me!

I separated the embryo from the yolk, soaked it in sauce
and then tipped it back. GULP!

This the the veiny, not very appetizing-looking yolk.

I cleaned off some of the veins and separated it from the
"stone". I dunked it in sauce before devouring.

Overall, okay, it was not as horrendous as I feared it would be. The broth on the inside tasted like mild chicken broth. The emrbyo was gel-like and didn't have the crunch of bones or beak because it was still so young. It also didn't have much flavor, probably because I sauced it to death, and because it wasn't as far along as some of the other balut that some other people look for. The veins were QUITE off-putting, and I'm not a yolk-lover to begin with- chicken OR duck. But, I wanted to see if it tasted different. It doesn't. It just tasted like a bigger chicken egg yolk, which was gross to me because I don't like yolks!! The "stone" is this hard white part that was probably the "whites" of the egg before the fetus developed. It's not edible like a boiled chicken egg white. It's as hard as a stone.

My thoughts that I guess I can handle the funkiness of this very scary-looking food. I just had to keep telling myself that I loved this stuff as a kid! However, I wouldn't go out of my way to seek it out, and I don't think I could do more than one unless I was starving and there is NO OTHER CHOICE but balut.

Be brave and go get your fertilized duck egg today!! ;-)

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