Foodie Firsts: Balut – duck egg and fetus

Warning: This may not be good for my faint-hearted, or faint-stomached, readers.

My dad invited me to a picnic with a bunch of his Filipino buddies today. I LOVE going to Filipino gatherings. There’s something so familial about the fellowship and the heritage, not to mention how good the food is.

Being raised by an American mother and a Filipino father, I had the best of both worlds in regards to my food upbringing. My mom loved her braunschweiger and chipped beef on toast. My dad would have us eat pancit (a noodle dish) and adobo (marinated meat, in our house usually chicken or pork). There has always been this fine line that I have walked as a second-generation Filipina. Not quite sure of which world to be a part of.

As time has gone by, the Filipino food is the one thing that has truly resonated for me. It has brought me closer to my heritage. I haven’t had the chance to visit the Philippines so the foods that I try are the closest I have been to the Asian archipelago.

While filling my plate today at the picnic, I knew I wanted to try something knew. I wanted to try something exotic. But I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the blood soup (dinuguan), a stew made of pig blood and innards.  As everyone was passing dishes, they announced that a fresh batch of balut had just arrived. I figured, “Hey, why not?” Now, I haven’t done any extensive research on what I was about to try. I didn’t know about the myths of being possessed by demons or anything. Thank goodness, I’m not sure if I would have eaten it then.

Balut is a duck egg and fetus. It’s about two weeks through gestation. Some blogs that I have read such as this post from Deep End Dining go a little more in-depth about the history of balut and definitely show some more detailed photos. Balut is one of those foods it seems that you either love it or hate it. It makes grown men cringe at the sound of the name. They walk away when they see it. I needed to be much more brave than that.

As I grabbed my hot duck egg from a saucepan on the picnic table, I was met by stares and comments, “You’re going to try that, Chris?”

“Sure thing. Why not?”

I brought my egg back over to the table where I was sitting with my dad. I watched as he tapped the large end of the egg on the table. A broth-like liquid started to pop out. He peeled a little more of the shell away exposing the yolk. It didn’t look too bad. I had to admit, the back of my throat was starting to get a little dry and I was trying not to heave. As my dad poked his spoon around the yolk, some of the fetus started to squirm around. Veins and blue gobs of I’m-not-sure-what-that-is-of-a-duck started to come to the surface. He sprinkled a little bit of salt on it and gobbled it up.

My turn.

Eyes were on me. I have to go through with this. In my head I’m thinking, “This is something I would make fun of Andrew Zimmern for eating on Bizarre Foods…” But there I was trying this balut, what to most Americans, most anybody, would be considered a bizarre food.

I tapped the egg on the table. Little bits of shell started to crack away. I peeled them off. Shoot! I didn’t have a spoon. So, I grabbed a spoon real quick. The yolk was starting to peek through. Ok, this is it. I scooped a little bit onto my spoon. Put it into my mouth slowly. I let it roam around my tongue. The balut’s smooth texture. It was rich and savory. Very much like a regular chicken egg, but still different. I finished the rest of the yolk and then I was met with a hard, white object. I couldn’t crack through it and my dad hadn’t eaten it, so I didn’t either.

There. My first experience with balut. A real foodie first. In the Philippines, balut is a popular street food. It’s like what pizza or hot dogs are to us in America. People with carts go through the streets selling their eggs. Which made me think…Would a balut cart make it in America? I doubt in Milwaukee. But maybe in the Chinatowns of the US, or places with larger Asian populations. Why not?

I’m sure some people would have issues with eating a fetus of any kind due to their religious and cultural beliefs. But then again, there are the cultures, like the Filipino culture, that find eating fetuses a delicacy. I don’t quite understand how people can ridicule others for their cultural beliefs until they have tried them or truly understood the history and story behind them. I’m glad I tried balut. I didn’t wake up this morning saying, “Hey, I’m going to eat a duck fetus.” But, I did. I feel like I’m that much closer to making my trip to the Philippines even if its just through food.

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