So far 2014 has become the year of firsts for me. First time getting a passport. First time traveling outside the country. First time going through customs, the first time setting foot on foreign soil, first time getting a mani-pedi, (clear polish if you were going to ask) And, first time eating balut.
What is balut you ask? It is a delicacy in the Philippines that is talked about by the children of expatriates or balikbayan as the single most revolting thing ever concocted to eat not on a dare. My friend David Dawson and his younger sisters Teresa and Laura have all gaged while describing it to me.
Basically, it’s a steamed duck egg, with a twist. Where one would find just the egg white and yolk there is the partially formed duckling compete with downy feathers, beak, feet and the cartilage like bones. I’ll give you a minute to take in that image.
How does one eat balut other than the other more obvious question, why would one eat balut?
After several rounds of local beer. (One for me. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking) A member of out party, Kenneth, the son of one my friend David’s Uncle Long, approached me with the balut served in the traditional way of wrapped in either newspaper or in my case a page from a local telephone book. There were four eggs marked with what type they were. Apparently, there is a range of balut that goes from an overcooked hard-boiled egg to what I experienced. I was told the next day that there is even more extreme levels of balut, but let’s spare the rest of Donald Duck’s nephews.
Now that I have your attention and have you at a sufficient level of nausea, here are the steps to properly eat balut.
Step 1. Crack the end of the widest part of the egg and begin removing the shell until the contents can be seen. This is where the sweating comes in.
Step 2. Suck out the juices from the egg. It’s more like a duck broth. The rest of the steps will get messy if you leave the broth in the shell.
Step 3. Remove the rest of the shell while everyone at your table taunts you into eating it. If you are not from the Philippines, I recommend that you allow the entire restaurant to get in on the act. Have something to drink handy. Another beer will do nicely at this point.
Step 4. Is optional, Add either hot sauce or spicy vinegar to the balut. I opted for hot sauce.
Step 5. Take a big bite of that bad boy and keep chewing. I had gotten most of it in my mouth. The flavor? Mostly like an over cooked hard boiled egg with crunchy bits mixed in. And here come the tears…
The entire episode took me five minutes of chewing before I swallowed and I still had to eat the rest of Hewey… or was this one Dewey? I was told it was the best part. The head with a little beak. Luckily for me the establishment where we were was very dimly lit so I couldn’t see what it looked like. Down went the rest of a beloved Disney character to the roar of the crowd.
It was like being in the winning locker room of the Super Bowl. Lot’s of photos were taken. People screaming and high-fiving me. You will probably see the photos posted along with full color video!
I came to the Philippines with an open mind, ready to experience anything. I wanted to be more like Anthony Bourdain and not so much Andrew Zimmern. When asked why I decided to eat balut, I simply said that I didn’t want to drag it out over the entire time of the trip with everyone urging me to try it. I tend to get worked up with my own anxiety with the unknown until the last minute, only to have everyone I’m with admonish me for not doing it sooner. I felt it best to get it over now and gain the respect of everyone here.
It’s not something that was on my bucket list, but I did it all the same. Some of you may have needed your bucket to read this.
Anyway, mission accomplished!