Balut– fertilized eggs

by chelseajin

This has nothing to do with medicine, but I had to talk about this somehow.
I asked my dad 2 years ago to get some balut (fertilized duck eggs) from his Filipino friends because I wanted to try it out. As a part of my bucket list, I really wanted to sample all these “exotic/gross” foods. He was pretty disgusted with the idea, and never really pursued it. All of a sudden, my mom today presents me with a baggie with 2 eggs, and tells me that my dad actually got some. I tend to think this is his sideways way to expressing how much he misses me because I haven’t been home in close to a month.

Ok, so per instructions given to me by his coworkers, boil for 30-45 minutes, then eat. I looked up more detailed instructions online, and found this. At that point, I started getting scared. As much as I’m a “pioneer”, the thought of eating feathers was kind of gross… I had a small dinner at around 7, then set to boiling the water for the balut. 40 minutes later, I have the egg out and my boyfriend is staring at me anxiously. Silently, he is thankful that he refused my offer for him to eat the 2nd egg.

And pictures commence.
First impressions: the egg is pretty large. For some reason, I had it in my head that this was a chicken, but it makes more sense now that it was a duck. Opening the egg was a nightmare upon nightmare because I’m expected a leg to fall out with blood gushing everywhere.

So I cracked it open, completely forgetting to drink the fluid inside. It’s okay, I’ll get it right tomorrow. /roll eyes. My poor boyfriend is so scarred from this experience he has completely declined to eat the second one. The shell is pretty thick, and as I’m peeling it off, I’m groaning because unlike unfertilized eggs, this one has a criss-crossing of blood vessels everywhere.

Once it’s peeled, it looks mutated, but innocuous. I ate the white part, the albumin most probably, and taste the same as the white of the egg, but it’s a lot harder. Definitely not a pleasant thing to eat, imagine really hard, vaguely egg-white tasting, cartilage. The huge yolk is just yolk, which I like.

And then the bottom of the egg. I thought maybe I got away with not seeing the bird at all, alas, I was wrong. There was a little duck head tucked in there, and I think Andres bugged out when he saw the eyes and leg. The entire bottom section was small enough for me to eat whole, so I did. I was surprised that there wasn’t much definition to the duck. I didn’t feel any feathers or little bones. If I had blindfolded someone and just gave it to them, they would probably say it was eggy, but something was a little off because the texture isn’t quite right, but they would never be able to tell there was an embryo there.

And so concludes that experiment. I felt pretty bad eating it just because while balut is a cultural food, purchasing it can also been seen as supporting an industry that essentially aborts animals. Ducks aren’t people, and I’m not pro-lifer, but it makes you feel strange inside to do something like that. I guess we can get into the conversation of why people find infants so cute and the idea of killing them so wrong. It has all to do with protecting our species.

Would I eat it again? Yeah, why not, it essentially an egg so it’s tasty. I just have the hangups described above. Do I understand why this is considered a nice snack by Filipinos? I think I do.

Completed so far:
-Sweetbread (thymus)
-Frog legs
-Turtle soup

And I’ve probably had every organ except brain and kidney, and crazy seafood as the norm (sea cucumbers, seasquirts…) but really don’t consider it weird enough to put on the list. I guess I should say these things would be unnatural for me to eat normally.

Next conquest, I missed trying this in Peru, but I would love to try a cuye (or guinea pig).