My doctor once told me to lay off the balut because of its high cholesterol content. Easier said than done, or so I thought. I actually found it easy to stay away from balut, though when I get really hungry, I storm the nearest balut stand and chomp one. Thankfully, my blood pressure hasn’t shot up.
While eating balut is normal in the Philippines, foreigners (except, probably, the ones I dined with in Binondo) still get queasy looking at, much more eating, that developed duck fetus lying on a partly-raw yolk in a half-shell. Still, this hasn’t stopped various people from having a taste of this thing.
Anthony Bourdain, for example, didn’t eat balut (referred to as fetal duck egg) when he visited the Philippines, but he did so in Vietnam. Hột vịt lộn, as it is called, is served there like a regular breakfast meal or snack. He found the dish to be just fine.
Andrew Zimmern (of “Bizzare Foods” fame) ventured to the Philippines once, and ended up in Pateros, where he learned how balut is made. The balut exceeded his expectations, and even called the egg’s juices “funky”. (This is Part 1 of the Philippines’ episode.
Ten-year old Remy of “Food Oddities” featured balut in one of his episodes. “Food Oddities,” by the way, is “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” hosted by a kid. (Heck, Zimmern himself liked the kid’s show.) He sampled weird food and then tells his fellow Americans how they taste like.
While there are brave souls who enjoyed eating balut, there also are unfortunate ones who are swallowed by fear and succumb to the sick feeling that goes with the damned duck egg… Such as this guy.
For some people, eating balut is a test of manhood, as in the case of these guys, Bau and Zeth, who were challenged by some Filipino bloggers to have one. The two kept playing with the eggs for a while, but they passed the test, eventually.
Seriously, balut, even in its high-protein, high-cholesterol glory, has been a symbol of a Filipino’s culinary prowess. It’s best eaten on its own, with beer, rice, or with any meal imaginable. It’s a “funky” (to borrow Andrew’s words), freaky dish that challenges the sensibilities of any food-lover, and rewards those who endure biting on its grotesque, abortion-reminiscent features with a rich, velvety flavor and a filling experience. It gives bonus bragging points too.
As for me, I’m still not allowed to eat balut.