The Daily Roar

The Art of Eating Balut, Philippines

Let us not debate about it; there is nothing disgusting about eating balut. It is plainly an egg, except that this one has feathery wings, premature beak, and a pair of brittle legs. It so much similar to a regular chicken egg that they make you eat this in the popular game show Fear Factor. But seriously, what makes this Filipino delicacy one of the internationally most-feared food are the images associated to it not by the mere sight of it but even upon hearing the word balut itself.
Balut is a boiled fertilised duck embryo. It is ideally 17 days old, just as when the embryo starts to develop, before it becomes ready for consumption. Also at this point in time, the bulk of the egg is made of ‘yolk’ while the embryo, which would turn into cute little chick eventually, is simply nothing but a small lump covered with white albumen-like membrane. It is a much forgiving sight than what an individual typically imagines. But the older it gets, the more developed the embryo becomes, making the “chick” features more prominent. This is where the popular nasty image came from.
By not imagining too much on how it looks, eating balut is as easy as peeling its shell. As for the taste, it is at par with the regular hardboiled egg, even more flavourful indeed. This is exactly how I convinced my Cantonese-speaking Canadian friend to conquer her fear. Just like with the other travelers from different parts of the world whom I’ve successfully convinced to try balut, I told her to consider eating balut as an art.

The art begins by cracking a small hole on its shell. Hitting the narrower tip of the balut on any hard surface, say a wooden table or a nearby concrete wall, is the best way to do it. Start peeling the shell from the crack. As you peel, the amniotic fluid would eventually drip. Take a sip from the hole on the shell. The salty flavor of the amniotic fluid would remind you of your favorite entrée, and for that, you are now getting the right appetite for the main course. Keep sipping through until you can sip no more. After that, continue peeling the shell until the main course is finally revealed. The plucky locals and the frequent eaters would voraciously munch and chew the whole chunk in an instant. But as we do this for art sake, we would step back a little, relax and enjoy each savoury moment. Now that the main course is revealed, pick them out from the remaining shell with your fingers and probably sip further if there’s any amniotic soup left. Take the yolk first; this is the yellowish part of the chunk. There is nothing to be worried about at this point. The yolk tastes like any egg yolk and the texture is consistently soft.

You can then pick out the egg white (the hard white part) and throw them away. It is rock solid thus called “bato” in local language which literally means stone or rock. Some locals can chew this hard part but for now, we can carry on to the better part of the menu- the chick. Ideal balut, which is about 17 days old, shouldn’t have huge chick and should be mostly covered by a thick white membrane. Eat this just like how you did with the yolk. If you are feeling a bit giddy that you might bite into the crunchy beak or legs, relax, there shouldn’t be any as this is still an underdeveloped embryo. If in doubt, you can swallow it directly without chewing. It would be a different story though if you are being confronted by a much more matured chick, the one which probably looks like capable of tweeting if it were not boiled by your balut vendor and turned into an aphrodisiac delight. On this situation, compose yourself. Grab a can of beer or a bottle of cola if you like to gain momentum. Breathe deeply, chomp the whole thing and finally conquer your fear.

Do the finger-licking move to clean your hands and finish off your remaining beer or cola to complete the art of eating balut with pride.

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// Wrote by Alec Cada, The Philippines

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