One man’s poison is another man’s staple food. Most foreigners would balk at eating balut. Heck, there are a lot of Filipinos who don’t even eat balut. Balut is a Filipino delicacy of boiled fertilized duck or chicken egg while the unfertilized egg is called penoy.
Come to think of it, nobody sells balut at daytime and certainly nobody seems to be eating it at daytime. Balut is traditionally sold by street vendors at night who shout “Balut! Penoy” in their most modulated voice. They usually wrap the balut in cloth inside a basket to keep it warm. Today’s street hawkers have discovered a more creative way of keeping the balut hot. They use pedicabs (bicycle with a sidecar) installed with a tin can with water heated by a small stove. The steam keeps the balut hot.
Balut should be eaten while hot to enjoy it’s juice. You eat it by lightly breaking the bottom shell. Partially opening it with only enough space for you to drink the juice. Then peel the shell, sprinkle a little salt and add vinegar if you like and eat the egg.
Balut is probably hell to those who can’t take eating it and heaven to those who love to savior it’s exotic taste. Balut was listed as the top most terrifying food in the world by the website Cracked.com. Although some of the food listed there seemed more horrifying than balut, I understand where the fear is coming from. Before I came to love eating balut, I used to think of it as a human fetus. I overcame my fear when I stopped thinking and started eating instead. I especially love the juice, the soft yolk and the chewy egg white. I don’t even notice whatever chick is already there.
Our lowly balut received, perhaps it’s redeeming moment when Tom Parker Bowles, food editor of Esquire and son of Camilla Parker-Bowles, recently visited the country to write about Filipino food for the August 2011 issue of the magazine. I’ve read about his visit from Marketman so I’m also looking forward to what he’s going to say about our food.
Parker-Bowles received caution from friends about Manila that it’s “one of the grimmest cities in the world”. The promdi in me would nod to this but then it’s my country’s capital you’re talking about so I couldn’t help but feel bad. Fortunately, he is a little adventurous when it comes to food so despite all the warnings, he managed to visit the Philippines particularly Manila.
Here’s what he has to say about balut before eating one, “But then there’s balut, the pavement equivalent of Animal Farm—the porno version you saw as a teenager on grainy VHS. It’s fertilised duck egg, complete with embryo, and like the porno (and Manila, too), suffers from a wildly exaggerated reputation.”
Then after eating balut, “But if not a delight, then balut is certainly a surprise. The broth is rich, tempered with a hint of shit and decay. But no worse than a decent Époisses cheese. The duck is tiny, no bigger than 5op piece, with the texture of a warm oyster. I swallow it down and bite into the egg. It’s beautiful, regally rich and pungent. A soft-boiled egg in mink cape, packing gold-plated AK-47. One more Filipino myth destroyed.”
I never thought of balut in that manner but thanks Mr. Parker-Bowles, you have definitely raised our balut to a level beyond just a street food.
Come to think of it, balut is like us Filipinos. We may sometimes be hard to like on the surface but once you break our shell, we are one of the most lovable people in the world.