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Sep 2 / admin

Food Exploration: Balut

Days start just as days. But, some of those days reveal themselves to be unique.

I spend my mornings teaching a GRE and GMAT course to students from an array of different countries. One of my students is from the Phillipines. She mentioned that in her country, balut is a popular snack that people eat while drinking beer. She asked if I would like to try this unique cuisine. I always find that food is a revealing window into a culture, and I like to think I am willing to eat anything a culture serves up. So…

“Yes, of course, I’d love to try balut.”

And, then, the day of trying balut arrived.

The balut arrived wrapped in paper towels for warmth and nesstled into tubberware.

Now, you may be wondering at this point: What is balut? Well, balut is a duck egg. “Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut is mostly sold by street vendors in the regions where they are available.”*

But, just like every bad Nicholas Cage movie (is that redundant?), there is a predictable twist: It is not a normal duck egg. The duck egg is fertilized, and the embryo develops for 17 days before being boiled.

Now, mind you, it is 10:15 am. My stomach contains a cup of coffee and two chicken eggs already. The idea of eating a fertilized duck egg is making me want to empty its contents immediately. But, I pride myself on being adventurous when it comes to food. “Withhold judgement until you’ve tried it.” This seems a valuable working tenet applicable not just to food, but to most things in life.

But, man, this is hard to abide by once you see the inside of the egg.

The white part of the egg, what we commonly know as the yolk of a chicken egg, became inedibly hard. So, that is taken out and thrown away. From the picture you can see that there is a liquid in the egg. My student insisted that this was one of the best parts and should be sipped from the egg.

What finally appears, by all scientific measures, is quite disturbing. With the visual imput from my eyes, my brain is obviously telling my body, “Don’t eat that!” And with the knowledge that this is a duck fetus, my brain redoubles its efforts by telling my stomach, “If this guy puts that in you, immediately extricate it from whence it came!”

My student sprinkled some salt and apple cider vingear on top of the egg, and I took a bite.

The most surprising aspect of balut, is that it actually doesn’t taste that bad. My tougue told my brain, “Hey, this isn’t that bad. Tastes just like a hard boiled egg cooked in chicken soup. The taste of egg intermingled with the savory flavors of duck. Chill out man!” But, this mattered not. My brain pretty much overrode all that imput from my tongue and focused solely and squarely on what I had put into my stomach.

The idea of the food made the flavor of the food negligible. A battle was waged to not let the egg come back up once it went down. I nearly lost the contest a couple of times, but I finally succeed in finishing balut.

Am I a better person because I tried balut? Do I understand Filipino culture more than I did before? Well…maybe. But, I am not quite sure. My brain can’t deal with this sort of high level rationalizing when it is focused on the fact that I ate a fertilized duck egg.

5 Comments

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  1. sms / Sep 3 2009

    this totally freaks me out

  2. lucky / Jul 27 2010

    that’s wow. i couldn’t do it.

    • KL Pontz / Jul 28 2010

      I look back on this and wonder what I was thinking. I always liked being adventurous with food, but after this, I am not super excited about diving into esoteric food from different cultures. I like burritos! They are delicious!

  3. lucky / Jul 27 2010

    ehm, why is my icon a little green alien dude?

    • KL Pontz / Jul 28 2010

      That’s what happens when you don’t have your own picture … I give people monster pictures when they leave a comment and the green monster with wings is now lucky!

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