Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Eating The Philippines : BALUT!

It's been nothing but go-go-go for the past month now... hopping around the Philippines, Taipei, and Shanghai. It's now my last day... and I'm so sad to be leaving. I want to get in one last post before I leave here - I'm dying to get all these experiences up on the blog - so here it is. My adventures in eating BALUT.

One of my most vivid memories of the Philippines came rushing back that first night in my Lola's house. Once the sun sets, the haunting chants of the balut vendors begin. "Baluuuuut! Baluuuuut!" Like clockwork, they make their rounds through the streets pushing carts of steaming balut, or simply carrying them in a woven basket. Their calls sound the same today as they did when I was here last... 16 years ago.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Filipino delicacy, balut is a boiled, fertilized duck egg. To put it bluntly, it's like a hard boiled egg with a baby duck inside. The embryo is partially developed, complete with feathers and a beak. No wonder it was on Fear Factor. I'll warn you in advance, if you're planning on Googling photos of balut, I hope you have a strong stomach. In fact, just the sight of them makes me a little puke-y. I had to mentally prepare for about 6 months. No joke.

A couple weekends ago, all the cousins got together for some quality time - without the parents. The boys packed the day full of sight-seeing, shopping, movies, and street food... which in turn, meant I had to eat balut. 

We didn't have enough time to go through the streets eating meat-on-a-stick and balut along with the locals, but my aunt made sure to have a heaping supply ready that night when we came home for dinner. She rounded up the vendor as he passed by and filled a wicker bowl with about 2 dozen of them. If everyone in the family was going to eat it, I had to try it. No backing out.
If you think of it as a cross between a hard-boiled egg and chicken stew, the thought of balut is a little easier to swallow. The hard things to swallow, literally, are all the little bones and feathers that you have to chomp on as it goes down. You eat everything... bones and all. And then there's the beak.

Our oldest cousin (after me), the doctor, gave us the 101 on the anatomy of balut... and how to eat it like a pro. First you crack the shell at the blunt end, and suck out the juice. Then you eat the yolk, the large and not so scary yellow part. Then, the hardest part... the embryo... with the feathers... and the beak... that's the last part to go down the hatch. GULP.

Following in his footsteps, our youngest cousin showed us all how he could stick it out with the big guys.

So after all that, the rest of us did our first round together. 

And just to one up everyone, Butchoy showed us how to put some real hair on your chest. 

So I did it. I may not have eaten the WHOLE thing, but I ate a few good bites of balut. It actually doesn't taste half bad... kind of good actually, no where near as bad as I imagine stinky tofu would taste. I would eat balut 1 million times before trying stinky tofu.