Who can deny how Filipino the balut is? After it has been featured on Fear Factor as a Filipino food the most scare-worthy, it has become quite known from all over. It a baby duck that’s cooked for eating. Hearing that, it sounds morbid. But for such a delicacy that’s eaten regularly (hmmm, maybe once every one or two months), it’s yummy. It’s as normal as salted fish eggs or caviar from Russia, raw fish from Japan, steak tartare from the French, or what have yous. It’s all food. It just takes some getting used to.
I remember meeting a French guy, Greg, who was a friend of a friend. He tagged along with my friends and I to a beach trip to Batangas and during our stop over, we saw a balut vendor on the side of the street. All having been raised eating (or at least surrounded with people eating) balut, it’s quite normal. But the dare for him to try it, with us eating it alongside him, showed us how “fearful” this delicacy is. He never did try it. We should have offered him some betamax instead (coagulated pig’s blood, grilled on a stick, cut into rectangular 1x1x1/2 inch blocks :P) or adidas (grilled chicken feet) from the other street vendor.
So what’s in a balut? First, you have to crack it on one end, then pick off the shell. No cracking in the middle like when breaking an egg. There’s the sabaw (or the juice),which is my favorite, that you will lose when cracked on the side. Breaking the thin film encasing the egg, you can top it with a bit of salt before drinking. It’s all the juice of the egg. Then you peel off more of the shell (while drinking every time some juice comes out) and you will be delighted (or horrified) to find the embryo, the yolk, and the bato (stone). The yolk tastes like the regular egg yolk from a chicken, a duck or a quail’s eggs just bigger and softer. The stone is white, a bit chewy and tough. When it’s soft, it’s eaten and is supposed to be a pang patigas ng tuhod (strengthen your knees). I don’t know how true this is, but I know that when I was younger, kids who are lampa (weak kneed???) were fed balut to make them stronger. In any case, it could have been the protein in the egg.
And the last but not the least, the embryo. The embryo is sometimes coated in white (balut sa puti) and you won’t even realize it’s the embryo. When eaten, it’s soft and juicy. Doesn’t taste like the yolk, but tastes the same as the sabaw. I have been eating it again recently, after not eating it for a couple of years. The stories a couple of years back were a bit yucky and crazy. Skip if grossed out easily. I was heartily eating the balut and as I grabbed the embryo, it kinda rolled out itself before my eyes. I apparently grabbed it by it’s neck, and the its wings and legs fell out of the enclosed white thing. It’s beak was also hanging there. It’s like a duck, but dead, and was ready for eating. Well, I didn’t eat it. Story number two involved me already eating the embryo. Then I bit on something hard. I spit it out, and it was the beak, already hard. I spit out the whole embryo. Yuck. But after learning to choose which embryos I should eat (tiny really babies only), I’m back at em. 🙂
Though I speak of it as normal as I have adobo, not everyone eats it. So who’s going to be the next one to try?