…and so, instead of a happy meal…

A balut is a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell.

Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut are mostly sold by street vendors in the regions where they are available. It is common, everyday food sold in the Philippines.

Here, balut eaters prefer salt and/or a chili, garlic and vinegar (white or coconut sap) mixture to season their eggs. The eggs are savored for their balance of textures and flavors; the broth surrounding the embryo is sipped from the egg before the shell is peeled, and the yolk and young chick inside can be eaten. All of the contents of the egg may be consumed, although the white may remain uneaten; depending on the age of the fertilized egg, the white may have an unappetizing cartilaginous toughness. In the Philippines, balut have recently entered haute cuisine by being served as appetizers in restaurants, cooked adobo style, fried in omelettes or even used as filling in baked pastries.

The age of the egg before it can be cooked is a matter of local preference. The ideal balut is 17 days old, at which point it is said to be balut sa puti (“wrapped in white”). The chick inside is not old enough to show its beak, feathers or claws, and the bones are undeveloped.

Balut should not be confused with the Century egg, also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, and millennium egg, which is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.

A few months ago, CNN’s division CNNGo.com published an account of a Texan blogger in an article on “the most ‘revolting’ food in the world”. The blogger said the dish “tastes like the devil cooked eggs for me”. The remark made headlines in Taiwan and China. It doesn’t help that, according to a persistent misconception, century eggs are, or were once, prepared by soaking eggs in horse urine.

Now if I can just get used to the idea of chicken feet…

Until next time!