Balut. The Egg of Darkness. Pinoy-Pinay. Panorama City, CA.
Pinoy-Pinay. Panorama City, CA.
(WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF DUCK FETUS)
If you cannot bear the silence and the darkness, do not go there; if you dislike black night and yawning chasms, never make them your profession. If you fear the sound of water hurrying through crevices toward unknown and mysterious destinations, do not consider it. Seek out the sunshine. It is a simple prescription. Avoid the darkness.
- Loren Eiseley from the book The Night Country
In the Philippines there are supernatural creatures infamous in the country’s folklore that can put a crippling chill in the spine of grown men by the mere mention of their name. On nights when the moon is high and the weather balmy and the air thick and wet, and when the residents of small villages leave their windows and doors wide open to escape the oppressive heat that smothers the Malay Archipelago, this is when the feared aswang are said to appear. The aswang live among the general human population and are not easily identified. They can take the form of women by day and werewolves by night. These are the merciless and murderous shapeshifters that hunt small children and the frail elderly. They may also take the form of a bloodsucking female vampire who seduce and kill. Or they can resemble something Westerners would describe as zombies or the undead on an eternal search for human flesh with a special fondness for liver. An aswang is also able to cast spells in order to subdue the victim then use her wickedly long, serpentine tongue to penetrate the skin and to feed off of the blood. As with many of the aswang’s Western counterparts, they were once human but became possessed by evil spirits and turned into creatures of the night. There are a few ways to turn aswang but it is rumored that one way is to eat balut.
There is a delicacy infamous in Filipino culture that can put a crippling chill in the spine of grown men almost as quickly as talk of aswang. That delicacy is the notorious balut. Balut is a popular Filipino street snack and is essentially a duck egg with a fetus inside, typically between seventeen to twenty days in gestation. In the Philippines balut is so popular that it is equivalent to what the hot dog is in the U.S. There are balut vendors who push around carts full of fetal treats and bark their wares in a sing-song chant of “baluuuut, baluuuut!” Balut is also a popular aphrodisiac for men. But even with the good vibes and positive spin surrounding balut, the stigma attached to eating it overshadows all the warm and fuzzy aspects of this very Deep End Dining dish.
Balut is the culinary heart of darkness. If you eat it, you have reservations about doing so. If you know about it, you have strong opinions regarding it. Ask for it in a restaurant and the clerk will visibly react. Devour it at a table with others who aren’t, and you’re guaranteed to dine solo. Explain balut to the uninitiated and be prepared for your audience to run away from you as quickly as possible while seeking sanctuary in something comforting like a Ding Dong. I know all this because I’ve had these things happen to me whenever balut is present, physically or conversationally. I have struggled and continue to struggle with eating balut. Superman has his kryptonite and I have balut. It is probably one of the (if not THE) exotic foods I fear most. In fact, I have been putting off reviewing balut for almost a year now for this reason. Why am I so freaked out by balut? Well, how much time do you have? For starters, balut will haunt you after you ingest it. It stays with you forever. I’m not suggesting that I believe in the ghost stories about being possessed after eating balut. I’m speaking more to the traumatic imprinting that might occur when you consume this culturally complex cuisine. Even when I try hard not to think about what I’m eating, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I’m aware that I’m eating a fetus, life that is yet to be, something unborn, taboo food. Also, this awareness has nothing to do with political-religious beliefs. It is simply the unappealing idea of eating a fetus.
I did not grow up eating balut. My first exposure to balut was my sophomore year in college when a Filipina friend of mine let me sample one of these eccentric eggs. She invited me to her home where she was to prepare it. Back in those days I was only slightly less daring about trying new and strange foods than compared to today. Also, I prided myself on being the “been there, ate that” guy. No exotic food could shock me. I’ve seen it all…or so I thought. My friend returned from the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear rather nefariously. She explained to me in plain language that balut is a boiled duck’s egg with a fetus inside. She continued on to illustrate that when I chew on the egg I may come across feathers, the duck's bill, bones and other bonus treats that aren’t included in your standard hard-boiled egg. Intellectually I understood what she was telling me. Realistically I could not have been more unprepared. There on the table was the first balut I’d ever seen and it had my name on it. But before I was to breach the balut’s shell, my friend instructed me on the basics of eating balut. First, I had to tap the pointy tip of the egg’s shell and make an opening large enough only for the broth to trickle into my mouth. Next, I needed to remove the shell and season the egg with salt. Lastly, I had to decide whether to wolf down the balut in just two bites or less, so as not to visually encounter the fetus, or to nibble on the egg and eat it section by section, being extra cozy with the partially formed duck. Lesson over.
So I went ahead and tapped the tip of the egg, created a tiny hole and took a quick swig of the soup. It was nice. Light and subtly sweet. The next thing that happened is a lot like what happens when you crank the handle of a jack in the box. You know something is going to pop out and you know it is going to startle you, but just because something is predictable doesn’t make it less shocking. It came time to open the balut. I peeled off a sizeable swath of shell. Suddenly and without any warning the fetus was exposed. In my hand, clear as crystal, was part of a duck fetus imbedded in the whites with a random feather jutting out. The blood drained from my face, my knees buckled and my breath quickened. I dropped the balut and told my friend there was no way I could eat any part of that gruesome egg. My friend’s eyes widened and brightened. I think I even spied a string of saliva dangling from an incisor. She grabbed the balut and said, “That just means more for me.” She then ferociously devoured it as if it was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten in her entire life. She seemed a little intense when she ate the balut and it was worrisome to me, however there was no Hannibal Lecter styled flourish at the end, just a dainty belch.
That happened over fifteen years ago.
I’m older now. Less idealistic. More cynical. Maybe more callous. I don’t know. All I know is I have a score to settle. Balut beat me once and I wasn’t going to let it happen again. I could do this. Who cares if it’s a little baby duck that will never see a glistening pond or swim with a paddling of other baby ducks. I mean, really, what’s there to be afraid of? It’s not alive like Korean “live tentacles”. It’s not potentially poisonous like Japanese fugu. And I don’t believe in those silly ghost stories about being possessed by female vampires after eating balut. The worst thing about it is that it looks kinda gross. But so does a chunk of blue cheese. The fear is all in my mind. Bring. It. On.
This was easier said than done, however. Balut is readily available in Filipino grocery stores but much harder to get at Filipino restaurants, and I wanted to eat it at a restaurant. Pinoy-Pinay in Panorama City, California is one of the few restaurants that occasionally serves balut depending on whether or not the balut guy delivers a basket that day. When I showed up, it was there. I suppose it was destiny. The servers behind the counter at this turo-turo or “point-point restaurant” were suspicious of me as I went through the buffet line and only asked for the balut and nothing else. As soon as the balut hit my tray, I grabbed a corner booth, tried to blend in and started to unwrap the foil that encased the balut. I chipped a chunk of the shell’s top off and took a drink of the broth just like the first time. Although, this time around I couldn’t help but ponder the idea of whether this liquid was really a broth or closer to amniotic fluid. A provocative yet unappetizing thought, perhaps. Regardless, the broth slash amniotic fluid was faintly nectarous and pleasant. After sipping the very life force out of the balut and delaying as long as possible the inevitable ingesting of the fetus, I began removing the shell patch by patch until the balut was completely exposed. In front of me in all its ghastly splendor was something that resembled a teleportation gone horribly wrong. In just about any science-fiction show there is a small chance that when a person is teleported something could go awry and when the person is finally reassembled on the other side he could end up with his insides on the outside. Vile, I know, but this is what my balut reminded me of. The albumen or whites was covered by a sprawl of blood vessels, deeply etched all over the egg like red tribal markings. In another spot was a knot of unidentifiable nerves that looked vital. Over here was something resembling fibrous tissue of some sort. The whole shebang was coated in a slimy membrane that shimmered in the light. This was worse than I remembered and definitely a very bad beginning.
I decided that I would do this in a big way and really face-off with my food. Which meant I would eat the balut bit by bit and expose the fetus and then eat the fetus without any barrier between it and me. My palms began to sweat as I deliberately took the egg apart piece by piece. Every time a chunk of egg was removed it was like the jack in the box. I wanted to stop but I was morbidly curious and could not. The next chunk of albumen came off. And the next. Then the next…
Round and round the cobbler's bench
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun
Pop! Goes the weasel!
Like a jolt there it was. The fetus: head, eyes, bill, little wings. No feathers, thank God. The sight of it threw me back into my seat. No matter how much I thought I was prepared for the balut, I still couldn’t handle looking at it. It turned my stomach. My throat constricted. My body was doing everything it could to dissuade me from putting that thing into my mouth. This fetus was a mad scientist’s experiment. It was an H.R. Giger creation. It was a bad acid trip. This fetus was many things but the one thing it certainly wasn’t was something I wanted to eat. But I had no choice really. Here I am. There it is. Here goes nothing. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes and did it quickly. (Sound advice for lots of things in life you don’t want to do.) I went right for the head and upper torso just like Ozzy Osborne used to do. Then I braced myself and waited for what I thought would be the unavoidable and unnerving crunch of tiny bones and the stab of a the bill. Miraculously and inexplicably, there was none of that, only the gentle sinking of teeth into egg.
I dodged the balut bullet.
Suddenly this monstrosity of a meal didn’t seem so daunting anymore. Now I could actually focus on the taste and not the terror. And, you know, it kind of tastes good. It tastes, appropriately enough, like duck. It also tastes like duck liver. I was very relieved. But I was also disappointed. How could a food inspire so much fear, controversy and ghost stories and ultimately taste common, banal, even boring? How was this possible? And how very anticlimactic.
Regardless of this relatively benign experience, I am still skittish of balut. I simply can’t look at it. The sight of the fetus disgusts me like nothing else. I snicker at people who can’t eat fish with the head still attached or a whole roast pig or a Chinese roast duck. Balut really is not all that different from those dishes. But at the same time it is different. Maybe what bothers me is the baby thing. I’m uncertain because I do enjoy baby octopus. Maybe it’s the vulnerable nature of the fetus. This could be part of the reason. Or maybe it’s the sickening sight of a partially formed creature? I prefer my food fully constructed and a little older. Would I ever try balut again? Well, there is another traditional approach to eating balut that I forgot to mention. It involves drinking a shot of liquor after every bite of egg. So if there’s a bottle of Jack next to that sack of balut, you can count me in as a definite maybe.
I. Am. Speechless. That was just simply, one of your best. How do you write so well?
As I was reading that I had my hands cupped over my mouth. I shut my eyes a few times, anticipating and getting ready for your next sentence.
You didn't even need to include those pictures. Your words alone did it.
But the photos - I had to scroll past quickly so as not to look at them too long. Grousome...
I hope you do not have to repeat this experience like you did for the tentacles.
anyway, i can't believe you ate it!!!
good job :)
WHAT IS NEXT?!?!
As always, I totally appreciate your compliments. This was a tough one to write and to swallow. I'm glad you like it.
p.s. I have to eat it again for a radio show on KPCC. Oh well.
I'm recruiting you to be my anti-spam enforcer. Go get medieval on some spammer butt!! Thanks!
Believe me, the suspense and the thought of biting into balut was killing me as well. Thanks for reading all the way through. I appreciate it.
If you want to actually eat balut after that post, then you are way more daring that I am. Here take my chopsticks and fork. I'm going to Denny's.
I've had balut a few times and yes the juice is definitely the highlight. Then it all goes downhill from there. I usually pile it with herbs and no, I never look too closely at the inside!!!
Thanks for the thoroughly entertaining! Do you think they'll ever come up with McBalut Bites?
The day McBalut Bites happens is the day we ride on flying donkeys. Thanks for your great comment.
Sure, it's exotic.
Sure, it's weird.
But do you people really want to know what goes in your average, every-day, all American hot dog?
Two words: Pig Anus.
you do have a point. if they grounded up duck fetus and made it into an omelette, it probably would be more visually appetizing. but they don't. that's my hang up. anus is pretty hard to stomach if it wasn't in the form of a hot dog. maybe your anus is more appetizing. i don't know.
Thanks for the comparison to Hitchcock. I just hope the birds don't get revenge on me after this balut thing.
You are such a wise quacker! Get it? Wise quack? Quack? Quackityquackquackcrack?!!
yeah, sorry for the gag pictures. at least you don't have to personally eat it now. vicariously you've done it already. glad you liked the post.
backyard snails don't sound toooo bad. unless you live near a nuclear waste dump then that doesn't sound good, well, unless you like snails that glow.
see, i think roadkill would be pretty extreme and i'm sure people in certain regions eat that stuff once in a while. it's like a drive-by butcher shop. blech!!
Funny. I've heard about this family ritual of feeding balut to boyfriends of Filipina girls more than a few times now. Typically the boyfriend is white or non-Filipino. It sounds like old fashioned hazing to me. I wasn't even dating my Filipina friend and I had to try it. What a loser I am!
Hey, uh, Kirk, where can one get those water bugs? I'm asking for someone else. It's not for me or anything like that...
And the writing. Wow again. "Is Eddie going to lose it right here at this corner table?" Whew.
backyard snails gots more flava!! next time i'm in paris i'll have some with you!
thank you very much for the very generous comment. this post was a close one. i almost lost it. seriously, if i would've detected feathers of any kind...ralph!!
i'm running out of exotic food in LA. i'm going to need to take a food tour of the world soon.
i bet you say that to all the food bloggers. just kidding. thanks for the generous comment.
p.s. are you syndicated?
Congrats on conquering balut. Like I said before, you are a brave, brave man. This time I really mean it.
P.S. That is one of the most disturbing pictures I've ever seen...
I would just like to CORRECT a misconception... few Filipinos would eat a BALUT with a chick that is THAT OLD. Chances are, it's a dare or there's money involved. Really, we don't like them feathery and bony.
I am not saying the author of this blog didn't have a traumatic experience... probably, his 'friend' was playing with him...
Or maybe the kind of balut sold over there really sucks...
And for people who didn't grow up eating them, am sure the "horrific factor" is multiplied a dozen times over... same way Filipinos would probably feel about eating turtles (a delicacy in Singapore), crickets (a streetfood in Thailand), or cheese filled worms (a delicacy in Europe, and real expensive too)...
So you might also want to read http://www.stefoodie.net/2005/09/27/what-you-need-to-know-about-balut/ first before making up your minds :)
Another American was also brave enough to try balut by the way... check out http://pinayexpat.org
But yes, EDDIE, you do write well... others who won't take the time and trouble to verify what you wrote are sure to be left forever horrified and terrified of baluts...
I did not prepare the balut both of the times I had them. I did not deliberately seek out the most developed balut in order to sensationalize this post. The balut you see and read about in my post is the balut I experienced. In fact, I would've preferred a balut that was not so far along in development.
I based my story on my experiences only. You and others may have had different experiences. I had my experience. If you think my friend was playing a joke or that the restaurant Pinoy-Pinay is deliberately serving inferior balut, then that is your prerogative.
My story on balut is not intended to denigrate this Filipino delicacy. It is one person's recounting of his struggle to appreciate balut.
Is it balut season? Because I also wrote something about it in a previous post.
Believe it or not, it's my first time to hear the balut being associated with aswangs. But it's true what Mec has said. We do not usually eat our balut as depicted in the photo. That duck is way too old.
Nicely written post though. Glad you did try it too and wrote an "anti-climactic" review of it. Who knows, perhaps I might also try deep end dining other countries have to offer. Like snake blood. Or those things they eat at Fear Factor. To each his own eh? :-)
The aswang association with balut was told to me by a couple of Filipino friends as well as derived from a thesis about balut.
I would love to try deep fried balut like the one you wrote about in your post. It sounds more appealing.
As far as the age of my balut, it is what I got served and I had no control over it.
Thanks for your comment and for visiting.
if you didnt bother to research on the delicacy you are reviewing, why present it in such an unfavourable light? to be cool and so people can say what a coolio you are for writing? i see it as a waste of your writing ability if you can't exercise mental discipline in first ascertaining the veracity of your folklore and how balut is truly eaten and appreciated, and not by ignoramuses like you and your american readers, but by people who actually know their balut stuff and have eaten it extensively and know that is is much more than all the sensationalism you have featured here.
your use of the metaphor egg of darkness, and the introduction of the aswang does not do the balut justice; in fact, you have overdone it.
a balut is simply an egg that many of my european friends have eaten simply because i told them to eat it and they did and enjoyed it immensely. and i had to get imported balut since i am now based in europe.
what a post, eddie lin. greatly written? maybe for fantasy minded people who don't care about facts and are in this for thrills. but in the end, this showcases great ignorance and cultural insensitivity.
packaging my foot. either you can eat it or not. if not, your loss. no need to paint horror pictures to titillate the sorry imagination of your equally in the dark readers.
What a post indeed! My family eats balut all the time . . . I DON'T and I WON'T. It's my choice but have never made any insensitive remarks about it, or them, at all.
Your "review" would have looked more intelligent, wiser, informative, etc., had you done further research on the subject.
Hahaha! Balut beat you twice!
"Deep End Dining. Daring. Different. Delicious. Diners dedicated to seeking and devouring the food uncommon . . . have an open appetite and get ready to take the plunge into the deep end."
Suggestion: Change all those crappy blab in your blog descrip and take a plunge into the bottomless pit yourself!
She's more terrifying to me than anything you have eaten or will ever eat.
All this over food!
You should read her blog. The sad, self-centered ramblings of a sad sad woman.
how one can generate such hate by not being sensitive of another people's culture and love for their own?
why not instead find the gift of the present moment and express love and understanding on other people and culture instead?
you SUCKS mr lin!!!and you deserve it.
Balut does not look like that; it's yellow to brown much like a century egg.
Now I don't know if you intended that, if you did perhaps to sensationalize the story a bit. Style yes, but not responsible, methinks. By the way, eating fruits is the same thing as eating an egg if you ask me. Same thing, less sensationalism. To the uninformed and selfrighteous, convert to buddhism!
Your photos are really over-hyped. That must be the raw egg because the cooked one looks nothing like that. It was a hard boiled egg with brown areas and some patterning.
I agree with john & the anonymous guy. I'm from Cebu City, Philippines & I am disgusted with your sissy overexplained ranting regarding your balut experience. You are a talented & creative writer but I doubt that your account is of your own personal first-hand encounter. Your article lacks substance justifying how good balut is for others, its nutritive value & history. Duck-raising & the arts involved serving it as food, including the preparation of balut is not a Filipino thing, you of all people , as a gourmand & probably a Filipino of Chinese descent should know, that it's story can be traced back to China. You are not just sent a worldwide message how bad balut is for you but also had consequently typewritten YOUR IGNORANCE all over your write-up. I second the motion that your unshelled balut pic is of an uncooked one. Every cook & foodlover around the globe knows that all animal(including bird, fish, etc.)blood & blood-vessels tissue turn brownish in color and cake-like in cosistency when cooked, never stays reddish & slimy as you insidiously overclaimed. By the way, the true-blood Filipino balut-eater's approach in initially breaking the COOKED balut egg, in order to start sipping its soup, is to crack the egg on its BROAD side, not on the conical side, like what you said. It is now a common practice toss a little vinegar(the spicier,or the more aged, the better!) on top of a sprinlke of salt before taking a bite, or right after sucking its soup. I think that you chickened out on both duck-egg challenges, Mr. Lin, & probably you were just jotting down notes while watching a friend gobbling balut. Once again, I admire your superb writing talent, but this story lacks a big deal of information. Stop justifying your distaste for balut & telling the world that its bad, just because of the psychological conscientious imprint it may cause you. Get real, dude. Take that balut challenge once again. Take it in your native hometown with beer or scotch,if you like, along with the friendly neighborhood tough-guys. How about coming over to my hometown in Pardo, Cebu City. I'll be absolutely delighted if you join me, in your 3rd balut bout, over a log-necked bottle of Tanduay Rhum 5 yrs, or maybe a big kuatro-kantos bottle of Ginebra San Miguel.
DON'T BE A WUZZ...
your reporting does lack information. why haven't you mentioned "PENOY"(the boiled duck eggs aged 14 days & below, without foetus)? the balutero sells them together with the balut(with duck foetus) eggs. penoy eggs also sell as good as balut eggs in the streetsides.
i'm a balut lover but my taste for balut does not have anything to do with my upbringing, it was ACQUIRED.
you can begin to acquire a step-by-step appreciation for balut by starting with sampling a PENOY.
maybe next time around, your writing won't sound like from someone whose conscience had just been raped.
just like your hellenistic namesake's origin, odysseus, some people are bound by divine intervention & phenomena to take the long way home. its going to be quite a long spell of time to take you from innocence to understanding. you guys also deserve to be shot, not via guns & ammo but get vaccinated-against the icchy-sissy bitchy ranting attitude b4 taking any gastronomical challenge. it was your choice, why regret it? its not like taking in poison & encouraging others to do the same.i advise you guys seek therapy if you feel your conscience was raped right after eating balut rather than yakking how bad & disturbing your balut experience was. converting to buddhism can be a sound idea for you guys.
I do agree, however, that the photos were somehow doctored (too red) for more effect.
Alas, if you can't even handle simple Balut, I doubt you could handle cooked cubes of beef blood.
(and, no, I don't worship Satan.)
I'm glad to be of service. I'm assuming you live in a fairly large US city since it's not super easy to find balut in smaller towns unless it's a small Filipino town. Enjoy your balut.
Thanks for the nice comment. I took a quick look at your blog thru your link and was curious about your background. Specifically food, of course. What is a Danish food you would consider exotic or interesting or uncommon?
Thanks for reading!
are you going to give me some headcheese?
Come on by! Don't forget the headcheese.
joe AT yunx DOT com
It was really delicious!
I have a girlfriend from The Philippines myself, and she loves the stuff. I've been with her to The Philippines a couple of times, but have not managed to eat a whole balut. Have come as far as taste the liquid and eat some of the egg white. Didn't manage to eat any of the small duck inside.
Maybe sometime, but I don't see me eating one of those soon.
and if it is do not pay any attention i mean we all think it's
no idea how to freeze those suckers.
thank you for the compliment and thanks for sharing your balut experience with us.
your first taste of balut was exactly like my first experience...except i wasn't dating the girl. i wanted to though.
yes, balut is very psychological for me as well. regarding "fear factor" they would never let people like us on the food challenge part. i wouldn't do very well in the physical stunt department so i guess i wouldn't win the money. i would eat dog if i was at a restaurant that prepared it properly. i'd probably eat it in korea.
you can click on the july 2005 date on the archive list and find more live tentacles than you'll know what to do with. promise.
for bugs go to typhoon at the santa monica airport. also, the prince in korea town has silk worm pods as well as the infamous live tentacles. enjoy.
I like your blog too. Thanks for the nice comment.
It's not your fault if the egg was too old; you didn't pick it, right?
And to everyone who thinks this is disgusting, particularly non-Filipinos, look up ethnocentrism, and do the opposite.
p.s. I've eaten a live cricket. It was crunchy. and wiggly. Yum! XD
thanks for the really nice comment. it's all about a good attitude with this exotic food thing. it sounds like the crickets you had were *gulp* still alive!
vomiting in your mouth is better than vomiting in your earhole.
thanks very much. you should try it some day and really appreciate the tale i told. peace!
aside from balut what other pilipino food are there in america.
would you like to try other kinds of pilipino food? such as crickets with round flat heads usually caught amount rice paddies, fried.
or bayawak, its a lizard, caught in the wild and either fried or boiled.
how about the different kinds of bagoong. these are "fermented" binurong food" small shrimp (pink paste) small fish (brown paste) and once small talaba (oysters) and they smell, i mean really smell.
but the food we eat here in the philippines are not that unusual. if there are folks here that eat cat (siopao, just kidding), and other people eat humans. all are stomach food anyway (pagkain tiyan)
yes, i would try any of those things both of you mentioned. however, i usually eat what is served in a restaurant or is traditional to the specific culture. if i can find those things you mentioned in the US, that would be even better.
I can tell you first hand it is much easier to eat for the first time if you are extremely drunk with friends 'egging' you on!!
KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK
thanks for sharing your drunken balut adventure. i shoulda had a little somethin' before chokin' down one but i had to keep alert and remember every detail for the article. next time i'll booze it up.
thank you for having my back. and thanks for understanding. sometimes i just feel so misunderstood.
thanks for sharing your culinary journey with us. yes, the veins on the balut is quite challenging to look past, however for me the most difficult visual aspect of balut is the newly sprouted feathers. ralf!!
best of luck to your balut meal.
thanks for your comment.
if i wanted male sexual potency, i'll just pop a viagra. the only "rise" i got out of eating balut was the hairs that stood up on my arms. frightening.
as a guide for those who want to try balut but are scared, try to saute it with garlic and other stuff. =)
I am a Filipina married to an American who is so fussy when it comes to food (even his mom complains!). It is so good to see our food from your perspective. You are daring, yet you still have that disgust over balut, I will never even try to let my husband see me eat that (if I get the chance to get one again). There was a time when we had a "major" fight over some dried squid that I cooked one lunch time when I did not expect him to come home early. His face was indescribable the moment he had a sniff of the air inside the house (it was a winter and I was alone, so it was time for me to savor Filipino flavors that I missed). He was so offended and told me he wanted to come home and not be driven away by such smell! And I said I was not expecting he would be home soon, but I did have cravings for such Filipino foods that he must learn to understand and accept (especially that I never forced him to eat any of them, or any other American foods less palatable to him). After that incident, we learned to respect each other's food preferences, whereas before I thought it was funny that he was grossed out by many things we Filipinos eat (just like your friend who first introduced you to balut).
The fish head (including some belly) is my fave part of a fish, and I try to eat far from him (where he can't see me eating it), or I set it aside to eat at a later day when I would be alone. At first he could not kiss me for 3 days after knowing I ate fish head (I don't eat small fish head, because it is the meat inside that I like, so I eat big fish heads, but I do serve the fish head on the table). However, I never serve such foods that appear gross to my husband during gatherings, not because I am embarrassed, but I have learned to respect other's opinions on foods unusual to them, so that I avoid offending them. It is a different story for my American friends (or even in-laws) who are open to new foods.
I was laughing upon reading that you thought the taste was anticlimactic. It is, really. All your (and other foreigners')fears and all the sensationalized write-ups about balut do tend to bring disappointment for those who had the courage to try it. It was an acquired taste to me, and I would not eat balut with feathers.
I am soon going to cook chicken feet (adidas) and am in the hunt for some Chinese recipes for that. Maybe you can help me?
I wish my husband was even half as adventurous as you when it comes to food.
He busted them out at the wedding and they were nothing like the ones I have seen on TV and on the web. They were running and soupy. The duck was red with a veiny membrane that covered everything. The yolk was bright yellow like street markings.
I was trying to back out and I told him that all the balut I have ever seen was cooked, and he told me that he's always had it raw in the bars in the Philippines and at his relatives' houses.
My brother and I ate our balut and took our shot of whiskey. It was a little rough when we had to chew the raw fetus a couple times in order to make it easier to swallow.
The next morning I felt just a bit weird. My brother called and said that he felt like he had a belly full of yolk. That was exactly how I felt too when I thought about it.
When I looked at the pictures that were taken that day, they are much more gruesome than the ones in this blog.
thanks for the comment and the tip to make balut go down easier!
snail-flavored balut??? okay, i'll do balut again just to try that.
thanks for sharing your tragic story. i dated and lived with a vegetarian. she objected to my diet even though she knew about it before getting involved with me. she was gone in a month.
i'd get a divorce if i were you.
hey, was the wedding in the states? i've never heard of raw balut but i wouldn't be surprised if people ate it that way. there are plenty of asian markets that sell uncooked balut. you are supposed to cook them but perhaps some people don't know or don't want to. balut is most definitely one hundred times gnarlier raw than cooked.
thanks for the tale from the darkside. remember to cook your food once in a while.
I think it would have been much easier to eat if it was cooked.
Here is a link to the pic :
small : http://www.deadagain.com/balut-small.jpg
you have to cook that thing! i just saw the photo and, man, i wouldn't have eaten it in that manner. i don't know, maybe it would've just been slimy. i don't have a problem with raw eggs - but raw balut?? yikes.
yes, balut was on "survivor" and i believe "fear factor" as well.
thanks for the compliment. i am not filipino. i am chinese. the interesting thing i discovered from researching balut is that the origin of this delicacy is believed to be chinese although today it is not a popular item within that community.
your question: "do you people also eat human embryos?"
my question, who are you referring to as "you people"? i can answer your question better with that information. however, most likely, my answer would be: no, "we people" do not eat human embryos. not even if it's as good as really awesome duck embryo or a nice, juicy burger.
thanks for the biblical quote link. yeah, i'll take a tasty roast duck over balut any day. fugedaboutit!
you've forgotten the most important way of eating the balut... in the dark! so you won't have to see it... that's why they sell 'em mostly at night. hehehe
i never liked balut and never planned on trying it. but if people have been eating this for years and never died... so i tried it ;-)
twice... the second time was the last time coz i ate a mature one that made me spit out the beak. hehe
ok enough description.
always in the dark eddie... always in he dark.
but i must say you're pretty brave for doing this.
A stop by the Asian market today proved fruitful. Mostly I was after some durian to cheer me, but they had some balut on the counter and I figured I'd introduce the boyfriend to the culinary experience. It was going to be a win-win situation either way - either I'd have the amusement of watching my boyfriend eat a duck embryo, or the amusement of watching him make the same kind of faces he made after his first bite of durian. In the latter scenario I would also get his share of the food. Muahahaha. I am an evil genius.
Basically balut is a duck egg with a little baby duck inside it. I've eaten it both raw and cooked. Raw is probably inadvisable for health reasons, but I was curious and I'd heard it was done that way by some cultures, so I had to try it. Raw isn't particularly tasty, though the slimy and crunchy textures are more interesting than in the cooked version. Cooked it's completely inocuous and mild tasting with just a bit of crunch to the texture courtesy of little unformed birdie bones.
Aside from the gross-out factor which doesn't apply to me since I am completely feral and savage in my perceptions as to what constitutes food, balut is kind of boring. Basically it's a boiled egg with some meat flavor and texture. Tastes just fine if you are in the mood for a slightly chewy meat flavored egg, but otherwise nothing to write home about. I don't hate it and I don't love it either. If they were on a buffet table in front of me, I'd eat them in preference to plain boiled eggs because they have some meat inside. However I don't like them enough to pay $12 a dozen rather than $1.29 a dozen. And if I want to eat duck, I prefer a crisply roasted leg to a small undeveloped morsel wrapped in egg stuff. So generally I ignore balut unless it's a) conveniently in front of me or b) there's someone who needs introducing to a culinary fear factor for the amusement value of the thing.
The boyfriend got the chewy little embryonic duck head and I got most of the soft little embryonic duck body, and we shared the surrounding yolk and well-veined white. I was surprised that the gross-out factor didn't bug the boyfriend either. Kudos to him for being adventurous.
It wasn't the taste (that was OK - I mean, its just a bad duck omelette...) but the psychological impact of the half developed duck...
Anyway, I blogged it here...
Thanks for the blog guys - I am now a subscriber
do it in the dark! nice.
thanks for the nice comment.
very happy you enjoyed it. reading my piece is as good (or bad) as eating balut!
i just snapped the photo. no photoshop. no flash.
thank you very much for your in-depth insight on the subject. fascinating!
it's never too late to comment and i'm happy you enjoyed it!
or should i call you mr. science? well thank you for subscribing. i guess you really like us! and yes, beer and booze makes everything better!
i'M FiLiPiNO, AND i MYSELF WAS ANXiOUS AS HELL TO TRY BALUT FOR THE FiRST TiME, BUT THEN AGAiN, i WAS FOUR. AHAHHHA. BUT THAT'S GREAT TO SEE YOU TRYiNG NEW THiNGS - NO ONE THAT i KNOW BESiDES MY FiLiPiNO ELDERS WiLL EAT BALUT. NOT EVEN MY SiSTER, COUSiNS. AHHHAH. CONGRATS. iTS SARAP!
Well done! Well written, well eaten. I couldn't eat it when I was in the Philippines. But I am not Filipina, so it didn't affect my "status".
The color in the photos is most likely due to bad lighting.
My fiance took me to meet his father's side of the family. After a few days in Manila, eating Western-style food, my first meal in the Province was dinu goan. Dinu goan is also known as "duck's last meal". A delicacy, it is the still-full intestines of a freshly slaughtered duck. This fine dish can be steamed or fried, and is served with rice.
I prefer it fried, which gives it a delicate crunch and added flavor. Steamed, it can be a bit rubbery.
Before I ate it, I asked specifically what was in front of me in each dish. Dog is still very highly prized on the table, I and was (ahem) doggedly determined to NOT eat it. Rick's cousin first told me the name of the dish, then explained clearly and plainly what it meant.
No one expected me to eat it. But I have always figured, everywhere I've gone, that food is part of the culture, and to fully experience and participate in the culture, I should eat everything I can comfortably and healthily consume. Plus, there's the politeness and hospitality factor!
I found that I liked dinu goan, though you won’t find me ordering it in a restaurant.
Unfortunately, finding that I like this stuff, the people who work for the family were instructed to make LOTS of it, and (in addition to 3 or 4 other dishes, thank God) we had dinu goan for the next 5 meals. So my lesson there was to not give compliments, no matter what.
I was offered balut. In our family's tradition, it’s picnic or drinking food. I concur with the Anonymous who recommended Ginebra San Miguel. God I miss that stuff!! Make sure you have a big bottle of clean water at your side -- take a shot of "Gin", then a big glass of water -- or you will pay later. We got in the habit of drinking it tequila shooter-style, with calamansi instead of lime.
I passed on the balut. The family explained it was like an initiation. "All" Filipinos eat it (though clearly that’s not true), it’s a way of proving your filipino-ness. "You only need to eat one," they said. But they didn't push it, either. I got a nickname instead, so when I get text messages from the other side of the planet that start "Regards to Tita Barbie," (blond hair that actually caused traffic jams over there), I know I don't need to eat stuff to pass a test.
Keep up the good work!! Kids eat balut. I wasn't embarrassed I couldn’t, because I decided I WOULDN’T.
I'm a Filipino and at first its hard for me to eat Balut because I can see the hair of the young chick I like to eat only the yellow part its so delicious...even my children will not eat the young chick. What I'm doing so I can it the chick is by not looking at it. We are selling Balut and it should be cook boiling for 30 minutes. Nobody try to eat it raw, even ordinary egg is hard for us to it it raw.
i'm a pinoy and i love balut so much...
- Someone mentioned something rather funny about Balut being given to boyfriends or friends of Filipina girls. I've never heard of that before, but if its true, I could only imagine the look on the fathers face as the boyfriend tries to eat it.
Great post, very well written, although I probably could have done without the photos. Eck even for a person accustomed to the food, the sight of it still gives me goose bumps. Viet people eat balut as well so I basically grew up with this type of food. Chicken embryo eggs are also consumed, and those suckers are slightly smaller so not as gruesome to down. We normally eat it with salt, pepper,lemon and vietnamese coriander.
If you are looking for another place to sample this tabooed treat then look no further than the Asian Garden Mall in Garden Grove. They sell this stuff in the food court. Last I checked they'll also stir fry it with tamarind sauce. How's that for some fun?
One of these day's it would be cool to know your impressions on the viet dish called thiet canh - duck blood pie.
it's not as bad as it looks.....
actually its quite good...
i love balut...
It sounds disgusting to foreigners, but little do the foreigners know some filipinos also do find it disgusting (especially the ones developed into a duckling. That protruding duckling head will turn off half of those who see it).
To those others who dare to try one, good luck finishing it!
One way to make the experience less traumatic is to let the initiate eat the balut in the dark of the night, so he wouldn't see what he's eating.
That is the reason why baluts are sold in the night.
I have a friend with your exact name! But he has just recently graduated from high school. A couple days ago I had an extreme craving to try balut again; as I didn't quite remember the taste of it or any memories reminiscent of devouring the fetus..
But right now I have just boiled a couple of them and it's crazy to think how in demand they are right now!! I had to visit 4 stores and was stuck in traffic for 2 hours before I became sucessful. :D I would just like to say IMPRESSIVE review!! I haven't even worked up enough courage to eat the baby duck yet! Weeell I bit it, chewed on it a little and spit it out because it tasted too much like blood..but I'd just like to say your vocabulary is stunning and probably as impressive as your list of exotic foods. I'm off to read the rest of your reviews now! Thanks for the entertainment!!
Nice job. . .sort of reminds me of the movie Alien. . .I bet it gave you horrendous gas that could melt wallpaper off the walls. . .
I have to say, this is the most amusing, and picture-wise the most disgusting thing I've ever read. I found this on Wikipedia after reading about eggs in general.
I'm Filipina, and I cannot STAND eating balut--probably because I was raised in America. When I was little, my dad used to tease me by unwrapping balut so we could see the duck and going, "Mm, this is REALLY good! You want some?"
Ironically, one of my favorite foods is the hyper-salty red duck egg. It's pretty normal compared to balut, but you absolutely NEED to eat it with rice or else you'll get a horrible stomach ache. I found that out the hard way, and my mom laughed at me when I tried to eat one like an ordinary egg.
Your stomach is WAY stronger than mine. Kudos to the fabulous article, and all the shock-tastic pictures accompanying it.
YOU. ARE. AWESOME. I am a thirteen year old New Zealand (south-east of Australia) girl, and am researching for my speech on strange food. After seeing your posts on live octopus tentacles and balut (both of which I will be including in my speech, in the hope that I will make my peers cringe as you made me), you know what, I think I will be mentioning YOU and your website as well.
LOL and I thought TRIPE sounded bad!!!
Thanks for (indirectly) helping me with my speech, and wish me luck! (I'm not what you'd call a natural public speaker).
I don't think I'll ever be able to eat a whole balut, but if someone ever offers it to me, I'll try!
but yeah eating balut is normal to me i've been eating this thing back in the philippine and in the states...yeah i like it its pretty good espesially the young duck inside...and oh yeah also the yellow part...i like to put salt on it before i sip the juicce and eat the duck and the yellow part...i can eat that thing like everday...i think its a good source for protein....yeaaaah!
oh yeah if it cooked properly the duck inside should be soft you wont even feel it when you eat it...oh yeah i also eat the white part(the rubbery texture part)
fetal treats.... hahhahaha duck fetus!
I tried balut in Manila a few years ago. It looked like a baby duck and tasted like egg. The locals seemed disappointed that I didn't wretch.
Eating balut is like a ritual you have to go through.
Actually this balut is cooked. I ate it and it was definitely boiled but served at room temp.
Reading that made me want to vomit. The photo was even worse.
You are a sick individual.
u sick siCK INDIVIDUa
Personally, I've found that I'm much more sensitive when it comes to the smell than the appearance of whatever I put in my mouth. Roasted whole pig's head? Bring it on. Stinky, moldy French cheese? Not so much.
I enjoy this very grousome and graphic post. It's very unnerving really. It's like reading a Stephen King novel.
Mr. Anon. is right. There is a gentler balut and it's called penoy. It's a balut sans the musculatory, skeletal and pituitary system. Try it sometimes, it's much more bearable.
How do you know if there's a Filipino in a crowd?
Answer: Shout "Baluuut! Baluuut! Baluuuut!" If somebody shouted back "PENOY!" That ladies and gentlemen is a true Filipino.
Eddie, I salute you...!
you know what.. balut is very high in protein and it can give nutrition to our bodY specially FOR those who are low in blood!!(anemic) and it can give you a strong bone When you are old!! i just cant imagine how you guys who doesnt eat balut are so CHEEZZYY!! for me as a PILIPINO.. we are very proud TO HAVE have a nutritious and YUMMY Balut in our country and we are showing to entire world that we are not CHEEZZYYY!! like someone else.. I believe that God created that Balut to eat.. not to care for it as animal.. God made that purpose for EVERYBODY!!
I'm Filipino, and though I have no love lost for balut (I don;t fancy it myself), I wouldn't say it's that bad. It's just different.
And, if you know Filipinos...it's almost a point of national pride to be able to eat practically anything. For one thiging, we can eat practically the whole pig...in terms of parts, and all...
You're certainly braver than I am - I would never eat that crap! But your pics and story are great on the experience. But you know, there's another issue that I'm sure the Philipinos and defenders might be pissed about when I mention it!
Doesn't eating undeveloped animals contribute to their food shortages? Think about it - a full grown duck as a hen could contribute a lot more eggs to eat, and either hen or drake would have a lot more meat to eat, as well!
I mean, wow, I love deer meat, and one fully grown deer will fill up my deep freezer (and it sure as hell doesn't have beaks, feathers, or amniotic slime on it). But if I was gross enough to use the same theory with deer, as the Filipinos do with balut, that same deer would be gone in one night as a nasty, slimy, fetus wrapped up in a puddle of afterbirth - yuucckkk!
brilliant post. simply brilliant. and that's some truly sick stuff you put in yer mouf. which makes it all the more brillianter.
having dined on balut back in my navy days IN the phillipines, i have to say, that was so accurate as to the physicalness of the feelings. lol. although it has been 23 years since eating this delicacy, after reading your piece, memory serves as though it was a somewhat savory something to eat.
at the time i was in the street half baked from a day of drinking, was dared, and thought after eating this item i was going to see MY insides. i did after all get to experience the feathers bit, and the bulging birds eyeballs was certainly going to be my undoing.
i came through it all ok, only gagged a couple of times.
all in all, i would recommed everyone to get out of their comfort zone and embrace this tiny bit of life. you never know, you could be the next zimmern or such.
thanks for the article i loved it.
But I have to admit, I am an avid balut eater...it is a great tasting dish, despite its taboos. When I eat it, I just eat it straight from the egg, without bothering to take in every detail of the poor unborn duck.
But I'm filipino, I've become accustomed to the way of life that surrounds this dish. At night, there are street vendors yelling out "BALUT" and as a kid, I would ask my mom for some money to buy some.
It's nice to see balut from a different perspective, well done.
but though one would feel disgusted at others food(its the cultural upbringing!)at least he ate it.and don forget,this story is about his experience.i don think that you guys would research on silk worms..roast pig heads,dog meat..or bulls penises when you tried to eat them..(oh btw,i think there's a place in america selling rocky mountain oysters!(deep fried bulls testicles).do u think that these ppl who condemns lin would be daring enough to eat these?but,lin should have respect to foods from other country as well by not overexaggerating them!^^
for me.us one who eat me about the balut.because us the student in business administration in Marketing, you should add some imformation related to this kind food food,that you can prove it.because the imformation do you post is not excatly discuss on the scren given..........but is of to you,if u improve or add information to make it clear for the one who visit of kind of article.... i hope you can do that.
You write very well. And I am glad you finally appreciated Balut.
But next time, try putting some very hot and spicy vinegar for added enjoyment.
Next week I'll start a Balut business here in Manila.
Which taste first, the chicken or th egg?
Actually balut is really a good dish. I have several of them. I never heard of eating raw balut. You have to cooked them first. I prefer a balot aged 16-18 days. I'd love to eat balut with some spicy vinegar.
Actually, I am not suprised by your comments about balut. You really make me laugh by the way you describe balut. I never heard though about balut related to aswang.
I'd like to think they do that so you won't see much of it. Aside probably from the reason that's supposedly an aphrodisiac.
you all really need to try this its not disgusting
once you get over the look its not bad
but then again look and texture of food doesnt really bother me
I don't know why I continue to eat this from the old lady street vendor when I am drinking too many San Miguels. But I love it with suka and some salt. They like watching 'Joe' The Americano eat it. ah life.
we filipinos enjoy it as a delicacy, as a plus, there are "some" cultures here in the filipines that eat worms, (here in leyte, the "worm" would be the coconut worm), and all filipinos eat all parts of the pig... including the brain..!!!
i dare you eat these filipino foods:
1. pig brain (from inasal pig)
2. balut (you're already done)
3. coconut worm
good job :)