When you think of the Philippines most likely you’re imagining sandy beaches, turquoise water, and tall palm trees. Those are all correct, but there’s much more the country and unfortunately, some of it leaves a bad aftertaste. Yes, I’m talking about its most haunting typical dish — the Balut.
If you haven’t heard yet, the Balut is a developing bird embryo (usually a duck) that is boiled and eaten from its shell. The dish is prepared by cooking an egg after 14 to 21 days of incubation, but this ranges depending on the region. You’ll commonly find it being sold by street food vendors for an economical price in the Philippines, but this bizarre delicacy can be found in other countries around South East Asia.
In the Philippines, the most common practice is to prepare the dish when the embryo is 14 to 18 days old, as the embryo’s bones are still soft enough to chew and swallow as a whole. Some people like the challenge of letting the embryo develop for 19 to 21 days, leaving the baby duck recognizable before gobbling it up. You may find this dish disgusting or unethical, but there’s no denying that it’s a cheap and highly nutritional source of protein (that’s if you don’t get salmonella, of course 🤢).
Still confused about what’s happening here? Check our video to live vicariously through this delicious or absolutely disgusting experience.
So this all sounds pretty complex, how’s it even served? It’s actually pretty simple and there are several ways to eat [or try] the dish. Once you have the egg, crack it, peel off a piece at the top, and slurp it. Some people choose to only have the clear broth, but if you’re up for it, you can munch on the embryo with a few bites too. For those who need the extra punch, you can also add a bit of salt or a chili-blended vinegar to the mix. To top off this aphrodisiac dish (or so they claim) enjoy a beer with some friends.
It’s believed that the dish was originally brought there by the Chinese around the late 1800s. Ever since then it has become part of traditional Filipino cuisine, which in turn has been introduced to whichever country they migrated to. Its popularity has sparked controversy around eating the Balut in terms of health concerns, religion, and animal welfare.