What’s in a Balut ?(Duck’s Egg Disected)

The difference a few days could make. A ten day old chick (left) and a 16-day old check (left) - photo credit from http://whitedogleader.blogspot.com/2011/09/balut-feathered-egg.html
The difference a few days could make. A ten day old chick (left) and a 16-day old check (left) – photo credit from http://whitedogleader.blogspot.com/2011/09/balut-feathered-egg.html

After seeing  a youtube video of four foreigners feasting and selling balut on the streets of Manila, I craved and lusted over this famous streetfood that actually brings terror to intolerant  tastebuds (it is that terrorizing that it placed #1 in cracked.com’s list of The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in the World.)  What is a balut? What is it that makes balut invoke either repulsion and indulgence to those who have tasted it?

A balut is a fertilized duck (it’s not chicken) egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that can be cooked in so many ways. Contrary to popular belief,  it’s not a local delicacy, as it has been known  to  be available and savored (oftentimes, it  has the same effect)  in other parts of the world.

In some countries, it  is even treated as an everyday food in south east Asian countries. In Laos, it is Khai Luk; in Cambodia, it is the Pong tea khon;  and known in China for its its many version :  maodan (feathered egg),  modan (literally “end-stage egg”),  wangjidan (flush egg) and huozhuzi (living bead).  Balot or balut is actually a Malay word  which means “wrapped”.

How is balut prepared  and eaten?

The duck egg can be prepared  and eaten in so many, depending on the country where you’re in. Filipino balut eaters prefer its  simple preparation of being boiled  and eaten straight from  it shell, with either salt and/or a chili, garlic and vinegar (white or coconut sap) mixture to season their eggs. Restaurants have recently explored other options of preparation by serving it as as appetizers in restaurants  cooked adobo style, fried in omelettes or even used as filling in baked pastries.

They are often served with beer and baluts are still while still warm. Vendors sell cooked balut from buckets of sand (used to retain warmth) accompanied by small packets of salt. There are those who have push around carts, full of these fetal treats and their main distinction is that they bark their wares in a sing-song chant of “baluuuut, baluuuut!”

In Vietnam, balut are eaten with a pinch of salt, lemon juice, plus ground pepper and coriander, also known as Vietnamese mint leaves.

In Cambodia, balut are served with nothing more than a little garnish, which is usually a mixture of lime juice and ground pepper.

In China, it is shelled and cooked fried and  sold in the markets.

In the US, balut is readily available in Filipino grocery stores though much harder to get at Filipino restaurants.

What makes balut so detestable  and  at the same time delectable ?

Balut is a fertilized embryo, and is usually cooked from between to 15-21 days of gestation,  depending on local preference. In the Philippines, the ideal balut is 17 days old, at which the chick inside is not old enough to show its beak, feathers or claws, and the bones are undeveloped. The Vietnamese often prefer their balut mature from 19 days up to 21 days, when the chick is old enough to be recognizable as a baby duck and has bones that will be firm but tender when cooked. To those with delicate palate, the duck fetus  can be all feathery and beaky. There are those  who would cringe at the mere sight of the fetus, and there are those brave  enough to try but would end up gagging.  To some, eating it can be upsetting. How can you eat something that used to be cute and fluffy? To some, it is simply the unappealing idea of eating a fetus.

But not everyone feels that way. To some, balut actually have  the balance of textures and flavors; and you’ll never know what you’re gonna get until you try it. You might be  expecting an unnerving crunch of tiny bones and cartilage (egg white) and and soft sharpness of the duck’s bill (embryo) , or simply just the gentle sinking of teeth into egg (yolk). Some balut eaters would  even do a ritual of sipping the broth, mxied with vinegar and salt, before the egg shell is completely peeled.

Is it healthy?

Baluts are believed to be aphrodisiac and are  very high in calories  (thus should be aptly eaten in preparation for a romantic evening spent with your partner). Calorie intake  will, of course depend on one’s requirments. But  it the cholesterol that you have to watch out for. An medium size egg  has about 619 mg and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines recommend less than 300 mg of cholesterol in a day and  even less (200 mg) for individuals with risks of heart disease.

You be the judge.

Nutritional Facts for a One Medium-size Duck Egg

Calories 188 Sodium 102 mg
Total Fat 10 g Potassium 0 mg
Saturated 0 g Total Carbs 1 g
Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 0 g
Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 0 g
Trans 0 g Protein 13 g
Cholesterol 619 mg
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 0%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 0%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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