History of Balut, the Filipino Duck Embryo Street Snack

History of Balut, the Filipino Duck Embryo Street Snack

Asian food has recently received an uptick in popularity. In the past few decades, people all around the country eat fried rice, sushi, Korean BBQ, and pho. One of the more hidden cuisines is that of the Philippines. Sure, people love lumpia and pancit. Even now, you can see ube–purple yam–desserts being sold at Trader Joe’s (and gone before you know it). There are a lot of Filipino food that have the potential to crossover but we sure know one that won’t: balut.

The street food is best described as a fertilized duck egg embryo that ranges from 2-3 weeks of incubation. Since each egg can be consumed at a different point in incubation, you can find some variance between what’s under the eggshell. There is a good chance you will see a duck fetus looking back at you. There might even be a feather or two. It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Balut is a street food most associated with the Philippines but can also be found in China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Interestingly enough, the Chinese first ate fertilized duck eggs because refrigerators weren’t around by then so it was an effort to extend the shelf life of the egg. Then, the Chinese traders traveled to Laguna de Bay, a Filipino lake. There, there was an abundance of ducks known as itik. They were generally pretty resistant and adaptive to disease and weather, making egg production more worthwhile.

So, in a general sense, the reason why people were crazy enough to eat a fertilized duck egg was out of…necessity…desperation maybe? It is a little bit mind-boggling that people still eat it today but to be honest…it’s not the worst thing ever if you don’t make eye contact with your fetus. 

One of the writers at Twisted has had experience with the dish. It is definitely not his favorite but there was some liquid courage to bypass some of the initial reluctance. It wasn’t terrible but there are definitely better options to come across at night.

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