Young Pioneer Tours

Balut – strange snack from the Philippines

by Andy Khong

Balut is a type of street food that is popular in the Philippines. It is a fertilized duck egg that is boiled and eaten in the shell, typically with a pinch of salt and some vinegar.

Balut is thought to have been brought to the Philippines by Chinese traders more than a century ago. These eggs are called “máo dàn” (毛蛋) in Mandarin, which means “hairy egg”. The Filipinos made this snack their own and called it “balut” (pronounced “baa-loot”), which means “wrap” in Tagalog referring to a white film which covers the embryo.

Some people consider the consumption of balut to be cruel because the fertilized egg is boiled and eaten while the embryo is still developing inside. This means that when the egg is cracked open, the partially formed duck embryo inside is visible. The embryo is typically eaten whole, including the bones, beak, and feathers, which some people find unappetizing or disturbing.

It is difficult to determine whether the embryo in a balut egg feels pain when it is cooked, as there is limited scientific research on the subject. However, it is generally believed that the embryo does not feel pain during the cooking process, as it is still developing and has not yet developed a fully formed nervous system.

How do you make balut?

During the process of making balut, the eggs are typically incubated for about 14 to 21 days, which allows the embryo to develop to a point where it is partially formed, but not fully formed. The egg is then boiled for around 20 to 30 minutes, which is believed to be sufficient to fully cook the embryo.

Filipino men believe balut eggs is an aphrodisiac; while pregnant women believe eating balut encourage a healthy pregnancy. Balut are a source of protein, loaded with Vitamin C and beta carotene which are antioxidants that help clean free radicals from your bloodstream and support your immune system. Additionally, they contain thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, all of which aid metabolism.


It is worth noting that balut is a cultural delicacy in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia plus some other countries, and its consumption is deeply rooted in local traditions and customs. While some people may find the practice of eating balut to be distasteful or unethical, it’s important to respect the cultural practices of others and to approach the topic with sensitivity and understanding. It must be noted that eating balut is prohibited according to Judaism or Islam.

Some people trying balut for the first time, might experience a ‘gag’ reflex from eating the beak and bones of the embryo. Those of you who are adventurous in trying balut, remember that food is always in the mouth of the beholder! And it is far from the most disgusting food we eat when we travel, with some of us even going as fas as saying we love the stuff.

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