At YPT, we are all about getting down and dirty with the local customs, be they drinking the local moonshine or trying the weirdest of delicacies. And boy, do we love balut.
What is balut
Balut, sometimes spelt balot, is the egg of a duck that is allowed to gestate, or fertilize for anywhere between 14-21 weeks before being served. So, in case you have not understood that correctly, it is a duck fetus. Salivating yet?
What is the story behind it?
It is a traditional dish of the Philippines, from where it is served throughout South-East Asia. It is suspected that the dish originated in China (where else?) before it was taken further afield by traders.
Where can you get balut?
Balut food is found throughout South East Asia. It is most common in the Philippines, but is also a main stay in Vietnam, Cambodia, and to a lesser extent Thailand. It is available certain places in China. I ate in in Linjiang on the border with North Korea.
The delicacy is also found throughout the Filipino diaspora and I have eaten it in Hong Kong and Macau. It can even be purchased in certain parts of North America, such as Canada and the USA.
What kind of food is it?
It depends where you are, but in the Philippines it is very much street food and is sold by vendors. In some respects it is a bit of a drunk food comparable to a kebab in England!
In Vietnam you often find it on roadside stops and in Cambodia as part of a street food menu, rather than from a specific balut cart.
Why do people eat it?
Why do people eat anything weird? But it is good for you so they say.
How do you eat balut food?
This will depend very much on where you are, but regardless you will be served it hot, from where it will need to cracked before eating. This is where the region varieties kick in.
Eating balut in the Philippines!
In the Philippines, you crack the top, take it off before adding strong vinegar and salt. You then suck the juice out before essentially sucking the duck out and chewing the balut.
How to eat balut in Cambodia?
It is served on a bed of greens like coriander and sometimes fried onions, much like street oysters. You then crack, suck the juice, but largely eat it raw. A very different vibe.
Balut in China
I have eaten the fermented duck embryo in Yiwu and Linjiang and both times you also add vinegar, but with the addition of super Chinese hot sauce. Very decent.
Balut in Vietnam
I’ve been assured I did this wrong, but I once purchased it from the roadside on a bus trip to Cao Bang, I had it raw with no flavoring. I was not a fan.