Philippines for the Intrepid Traveler

If the Philippines is part of a worldly traveler's story-telling, an inevitable question will be:

Did you eat balut?

No other Philippine food item will evoke a combination of amusement, revulsion and incredulousness as the balut, a fertilized duck egg with its discernible (sometimes feathered) embryo, sharing shell space with a yolk and a hardened white called "bato." Long part of Filipino culinary folklore, it is considered a virility-enhancing, stamina-boosting UpYourDickSiac. . . um. . . aphrodisiac.

It is not unique to the Philippines. Its origin may be Chinese, where it is called "maodan" (feathered egg). In Vietnam, it is called hot vin lon. It is also found in the fertilized egg customs of Laos, Cambodia (Ponh tea khon) and Thailand. But it is in the Philippines where it has evolved into a variety of offerings: the classic traditional suck-peel-gobble eggform, pickled balut, balut omelet, adobong balut, deep-fried, or bottled balut in its various native flavors.

Although widely produced in the Philippines – usually from the Mallard duck (Pateros itik, Anas platyrnchos) – it is in Pateros, Rizal where balut making has been elevated to art and science. Attention is given to incubation time – after nine days of sun-basking, the embryo development is confirmed by its shadowy presence within the shell revealed through a background light. Another eight days complete the optimum cycle of development and the duck egg is ready for cooking and consumption. The perfect balut, called Balut sa Puti, is 17 days old, without discernible beak, feathers and claws and underdeveloped bones. Some prefer an additional 3 or 4 days which will allow further development that will make the duck embryo's basic features more recognizable and the bones firmer yet still tender.
Eggs that fail to properly develop in 9 to 12 days are sold as penoy. Although it looks like a regular hardboiled egg, it has a smell and taste that some may find unpleasant.

In many places, the balut vendors start plying their basketful of warm eggs in the late afternoon and early evenings, the strung out cries of "balooooooooot" cutting through the streets, announcing these ducky delicacies to balutophiles and alcohol-fueled gatherings in need of a pulutan (side dish).

Regional rural folklore caution against the 'lethal' combination of beer and balut as a possible cause of bangungut. Superstitions warn pregnant women of balut-craving as a possible cause of hairy babies or hirsutism later in life. Excessive use is also believed to be a cause hypertension and occipital headaches. Even with those anecdotal and folkloric concerns and the obvious serving of cholesterol in the yolk, many believe it to be a healthy, energizing and virilizing UpYourDickSiac . . . um. . . aphrodisiac food item.

Balut is the quintessential and affordable delicacy. A male-dominated indulgence, it is a common pulutan (side dish) in an evening of drinking; for some, especially among women, it is a rite-of-passage food, the taste and craving diminished by a lasting image of a clumped feathered or beaked duck embryo.

For foreigners, it is official Filipino badge-of-courage dare-and-shock-food, a Fear-Factor kind of macho-measure of intestinal fortitude, that on fearless gastronomic or alcohol-assisted consummation would merit a high-five, the pinoy "appear," the brother-handshake, fist-bump, or fist-jab.

In a list of the six most terrifying foods in the world, balut ranked No. 1. (Link)


A BALUT SUPERSTITION – an excessive craving for balut during pregnancy (paglilihi) might result in a child born with abnormal patches of hair or hirsutism (balbon) later in life.


Consumption 101 -
The Classic Way

The egg "delicacy" is cooked in its shell and is usually ingested as a finger food. Unlike the generic hardboiled egg that is peeled and nibbled on and dipped in salt in between bites, the balut is a "finger food" taken whole, chewed and gulped; or alternatively, in two stages, the feathered ducky and the yolk in separate chew-and-gulps. But before the mouthful chew-and-gulp, there is a ritual of Suck-Shell-Separate-Chew-Gobble-and-Gulp. It starts with tapping and cracking the pointed tip of the egg to produce a small opening – just big enough to shear off the paper-thin sac to allow an exit for the vigorous sucking and slurping of about a tablespoonful of embryonic broth (amniotic fluid plus extract of duck abortus).Then the egg is de-shelled to expose the clumped and nestled contents – embryo, yolk and hard white. (Graphic insert: L - R. embryo, yolk, and white) The hard white part is separated, and the embryo, with or without the yolk, is dipped in salt or a sauce of vinegar, garlic and chili (or lime and pepper), and with flourish and aplomb taken in-toto, chewed, savored, and chased down with beer or gin. The hardened white albumin (bato) is usually thrown away, but in rural drinking, where nary a sliver of pulutan is thrown to waste, the small hard "white rocks" are eventually chewed into submission.

Bottled Balut . . . ?
Yep! The entrepreneurial gourmandized bottling of grossness. . for the . . . um. . . anywhere-anytime-you-might-crave-it. . . Bottled balut !
The balut has slowly snuck out of the weird-and-gross brave-and-hardy menu, gaining entry into "delicacy" or "gourmet" category, and occasionally as "higher-end" or fringe culinary entrees – like adobong balut or balut omelet. It has also become available bottled, in three forms: brined, caldereta or afritada (Andoy’s Best Bottled Balut), 240-gm premium priced at P60 to P75, not everyday pulutan for the drinking masa's usually budgeted bacchanalia. In comparison, street-vendored balut sells from P7 to P12 per egg.

But, gee! What's the point? What is balut without the ritual? Feeling the fresh warmth of the egg roll in your palm, cracking the tip, slurping and sucking off the juice, shelling it, separating the contents, and with alcohol-fueled braggadocio in the definitive act of culinary intrepidity, gobbling down the salt-sprinkled or vinegar-dipped feathery embryo.

For the bungee-jumping, worm-eating, snail-sucking, try-anything-once been-there-done-that intrepid traveler, the balut is one of the pit stops in your Philippine adventure.

Bon appétit !

For other delectable Filipino fringe and UpYourDickSiac foods, check out the yuck-but-yummy list of Philippine cuisine.


Photo ©Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Public Domain / BALUT EGG / File:BALUT.jpg / Original uploader was Ischaramoochie at en.wikipedia / 2008-05-03 / Wikipedia
More Readings for the Intrepid Traveler  
Fiestas and Festivals
Philippine Cuisine:
The Yucky-But-Yummy

Sabong / Cockfighting

The ABCDE of the Yummy
Philippine Cuisine
  by Godofredo Umali Stuart


     •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •