Balut, a.k.a. Filipino Duck Embryo Shooters

Balut, a steamed partially developed duck embryo, is a massively popular dish in the Philippines. It is a meal best eaten with friends and large quantities of beer. In America it is generally something that only forms fodder for a parade of "Most Disgusting Foods Ever" lists. In the Philippines, balut is said to be an aphrodisiac and a natural male performance enhancer.

What is balut? Balut is a fertilized duck egg that has been incubated for around 17 days. Duck eggs need to incubate longer than chicken eggs, but this chart should give you a pretty good idea what is going on around day 17. Balut is made from older and younger eggs, but the consensus is that eggs cooked on or around the 17th day have the best balance of flavor and texture. Eggs cooked beyond the 17th day might have developed feathers and beaks, which need to be spit out during the eating process.

The egg is cooked by steaming or boiling, almost exactly like a regular hard-boiled egg. Balut is best served warm and accompanied by salt and vinegar.

In the Philipines, balut is generally sold by street vendors who keep the eggs warm in buckets of sand. In the States, balut can occasionally be found in Asian markets where it is usually kept by the register in a rice cooker set on warm.

Be Warned: There is a picture of balut, in all of its partially developed duck embryo glory, after the jump.

My Personal Experience With Balut: I have eaten balut three times and I am not opposed to eating it again. I eat duck, I eat eggs, it seems silly to think that eating the intermediary duck embryo makes me any more or less of a meat eating monster.

The first time I ate balut was actually aboard a US Navy warship floating off the coast of Mindinao while providing humanitarian aid. Many of my fellow sailors were Filipino so it wasn't a shock that they were able to procure some balut while they were ashore.

We ate it with salt and a bit of vinegar. The first thing you do is carefully crack a hole into the bottom of the shell. There's a little air pocket there that you can get your finger into. Since the eggs that we had were on the younger end of the balut spectrum, there was a fair amount of juice in them. The juice smells a bit like sewage but after adding a bit of salt and a dab of vinegar it ends up tasting a great deal like chicken broth. After you suck the juice off the top of the embryo you peel away about half the shell, gaze in horror at what you've revealed, and then chuck the entire thing into your mouth at once and chew.

Shockingly, it actually tasted pretty good, like a rich chicken soup. The worst part of the egg isn't actually the embryo but the remaining yolk and white. Once steamed, it can form into a hard and virtually inedible rock that I was told was fine to spit out. It was tasty enough, and the accolades of my Filipino friends were loud enough, that I downed a second one in short order.

The best advice I can give you is this: If you have any say in the matter, get the youngest balut you can. Balut connoisseurs might say the older and less juicy balut are the best but spitting out a beak is probably not something you want to tangle with.

Finding balut in Phoenix: The easiest and most reliable place to find balut is the Hey Joe! Filipino food truck. Their regular schedule puts them at the Phoenix Public Market most Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Beyond that, you're mostly on your own. Balut is not exactly popular among non-southeast Asians so the areas Asian markets stock it rarely at best. Its status as a street food means that you'll rarely find it offered at most restaurants either. Your best bet is to become acquainted with a Filipino and get friendly with their family. If you eat with them regularly, balut is likely to come up and when it does, eat it.

Check back Monday for our complete list of baby animals you can eat -- just in time for Easter! Follow Chow Bella on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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