I really did eat it! And now, I feel like I officially am a food adventurer. Well, I've never been too timid to eat icky-looking animal parts. Chicken feet, duck beaks, beef tongue, pig intestine, fish eyeballs, you name it--I've tried them all. But the balut...Oh gosh, this Filipino delicacy used to make me cringe.
So what the heck is the balut? It's a boiled duck or chicken egg with an underdeveloped chick inside. Or in a more precise term, an embryo. The fertilized egg is usually incubated for about 17 days or until the embryo develops partially-formed wings, a compressed beak, veins and some fine feathers. Uglier than a sea-slug soup and weirder than deep-fried brain fritters, the balut is indeed a culinary horror many Filipinos themselves won't even touch. And of course, years ago, when I first heard about this bizarre delicacy, I crinkled my nose in disgust and swore I would never eat it.
Not sure what changed my mind. Maybe I'm just becoming more adventurous and more tolerant to grossness as I age. So today, as I spotted a bucket of warm balut eggs at a Filipino supermarket's deli, I went straight to the counter and bought one. My old aversion to the balut actually returned when I got home and started peeling the egg. (I knew I was supposed to open just the top, leave the rest of the shell on and eat it with a little spoon, but I was curious to see what it would look like once completely peeled.) Would the unborn chick lividly stare me in the eyes? Would its tiny feathers tickle my throat? Would it taste like an abominable regret?
Well, I saw lots of veins and meat inside but couldn't quite make out the shape of the unhatched chick. (That's a good thing, I guess.) I sprinkled some salt on it and took a bite. The egg or the yellow part had a firm tofu-like texture and a mild flavor of chicken soup. The meat, although quite juicy and tender, didn't have much taste to it. "So this is it, huh?" I thought to myself, disenchanted. I kind of expected it to either knock my socks off or give me recurring nightmares for weeks. But no, it did neither. This exotic dish--reverently sought after by daring foodies and fearfully scorned by mainstream diners--turned out to be....just so-so.