BalutA partially shelled balut egg, ready to be eaten. An underaged balut with visible chick. A 15-day-old balut egg floating in a mixture of hot sauce and patis. Dissected Balut, showing the head part of the duckling.
A balut (Trứng vịt lộn or Hột vịt lộn in Vietnamese, Pong tea khon in Cambodian) is a fertilized duck (or chicken) egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. They are common, everyday food in some countries in Asia, such as in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. They are often served with beer. The Filipino and Malay word balut (balot) means "wrapped" – depending on pronunciation. This food however is uncommon in Malaysia.
Balut are most often eaten with a pinch of salt, though some balut-eaters prefer chili and vinegar to complement their egg. 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 are consumed, although the whites can be uneaten. In the Philippines, balut have recently entered higher cuisine by being served as appetizers in restaurants: cooked adobo style, fried in omelettes or even used as filling in baked pastries.
Balut-making is not native to the Philippines. A similar preparation is known in China as maodan (Chinese: 毛蛋; pinyin: máodàn; literally "feathered egg"), and Chinese traders and migrants are said to have brought the idea of eating fertilized duck eggs to the Philippines. However, the knowledge and craft of balut-making has been localized by the balut-makers (mangbabalut). Today, balut production has not been mechanized in favor of the traditional production by hand. Although balut are produced throughout the Philippines, balut-makers in Pateros are renowned for their careful selection and incubation of the eggs.
Fertilized duck eggs are kept warm in the sun and stored in baskets to retain warmth. After nine days, the eggs are held to a light to reveal the embryo inside. Approximately eight days later the balut are ready to be cooked, sold, and eaten. Vendors sell cooked balut out of buckets of sand, used to retain warmth, and are accompanied by small packets of salt. Uncooked balut are rarely sold in Southeast Asia. In the United States, many Asian markets occasionally carry uncooked balut eggs, though their demand in North America is not very great. The cooking process is identical to that of hard-boiled chicken eggs, and baluts are enjoyed while still warm.
Duck eggs that are not properly developed after nine to twelve days are sold as penoy, which look, smell and taste similar to a regular hard-boiled egg. In Filipino cuisine, these are occasionally beaten and fried, similar to scrambled eggs, and served with a vinegar dip.
The age of the egg before it can be cooked is a matter of local preference. In the Philippines, the perfect 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. The Vietnamese prefer their balut matured from 19 days up to 21 days, when the chick is old enough to be recognizable as a baby duck and has bones that will be firm but tender when cooked. In Cambodia, most people prefer to eat it while it is still warm in its shell. Served with nothing more than a little garnish, it is widely popular. Usually, it is accompanied by a mixture of lime juice and ground pepper.
In popular media
Balut has been the "shocking" topic of some television shows because of its taboo nature in some Western cultures. In two episodes of Survivor: Palau and two episodes of Survivor: China, separate challenges featured attempts to eat this Asian delicacy. Similarly, Fear Factor frequently uses balut as a means of grossing out contestants. Recently, contestants of The Amazing Race Asia 2 had to eat 8 baluts as a team before receiving their next clue. The Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern also featured Balut, where the host pronounced 18-day-old balut one of the strangest foods he'd ever eaten in his life, but far better tasting than he had expected. The members of the rock band Switchfoot ate balut on stage at their concert in the Philippines. Episode 28 of the Switchfoot Podcast shows video footage of this occurrence.
In Fantasy Hotel, one of the beginning episodes show Ga Mun, played by Melissa Ng as a disgraced tour guide who vomits at her customers when they order a balut at a Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong, earning her the wrath of co-worker and leader Kum Chi Kit (played by Michael Tao). This was used as a running gag throughout the rest of the series and Kum Chi Kit finally admitted that he too, was disgusted with balut.
In May 2008, Deal or no Deal: Around The World, featured balut as a challenge to a contestant. The show was aired in the Philippines. Kris Aquino was the co-host of this episode along with the regular host, Howie Mandel. Kris cracked open the egg for the contestant to eat. The Balut was worth $10,000, Mata ng Isda (Fish Eyes) were worth $5,000, and Adidas (Chicken Feet) was worth $1,000.
- Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food, s.v. balut. Oxford University Press 1999. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
- Mechanized Balut Making: Bottled Balut
See alsoWikimedia Commons has media related to: Balut
- Municipality of Pateros - Balut Making
- A first-hand account of Balut in North America
- YouTube Video of Balut Eating
- YouTube Video of How to Cook Balut & Instructions of Eating Balut
- YouTube Video of How to Cook Fried Balut