Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fear factor

A friend and I share the same gripe: why do they always use the balut for reality shows featuring the Philippines, particularly for "challenge" events? The poor balut. It gets no respect. Well I for one hereby state my love for the ugly duckling. Yes, it's not the prettiest thing in the world to open up a shell and see a half-formed duck embryo staring at you, especially if the beak is there, feathers... ok, you get the drift. But it's a tasty thing. And if you are lucky enough to have parents who do eat balut and train you from babyhood to eat it, enjoy it, beat your breast like a champion after (hahahahaha, no, seriously, no chest beating, just some tummy rubbing after eating too many of them when you could down more than 3, not to mention groaning for the comfort of your bed), well then you, my friend, are one of us. Baluteaters.

Revel in a hot, large gray egg, particularly those from the balut capital, Pateros in Rizal, not too far from Metro Manila. They look like young charcoal balls, an ivory grey color, very luxe when it's in suede and covering yon Louis Quince chair or Chippendale (not the dancing, tux-bow wearing kind).

Look for the round end, tap on it's hard shell till a crack helps you unpeel a hole, enough to check for soup. Yes, verily I say! It's got soup! For these eggs are boiled, and some crazy chemistry takes place and we've got soup in the egg. Sip soup gently, add some salt (less than a pinch, between a dash and a whisper), sip some more. No gulping, it's hot remember?

After most of the soup is gone, peel back a few more millimeters of the shell, see if you've got the white or the yolk. Add some vinegar with chilli peppers soaking it, or more salt, whatever takes your fancy. If you are a dainty eater, take thee a fork or a spoon and nibble on some of the yummy fatty boiled yolk. Poke fork tines through to see how big of a duck you've got in there and if you're squeamish, poke fast and mix yolk with the duckling and it won't be so bad. Really.

Otherwise, eat each section with care, I like to eat the yolk first, with a drizzle of vinegar and salt. Then I add more vinegar and gulp down the duckling like an oyster. It does feel like an oyster, a boiled oyster. Hmmm, maybe I should try adding some caviar the next time... Ok, then the last bit, some people don't eat it at all, the hard white dome that probably is some placenta thingy. I nibble on it, and while waiting for my dad to finish his balut, I sometimes finish the entire white stuff. It has no flavor, it's mainly a dense ball of nibbliness.

Finish off with any leftover soup at the bottom of the shell if you didn't do the job right in the beginning.

Give yourself a few minutes to feel the effects of all that cholesterol in your system and take it slow while you think of having another duckiness. Drink some hot water or a shot of gin to cleanse the system, then go for the next egg.



Katrina said...

I, too, grew up with my mom teaching me to eat balut. I used to have no problem at all eating the duckling, but now I prefer just to eat the egg (which is yummmmy!). Still, if there's no one to pass the duckling on to, I'm not averse to popping it in my mouth.

I once tried to talk this German visitor into trying it, at least the "soup" (actually amniotic fluid) and egg. He just couldn't do it. I said, "What's the big deal? You eat duck, don't you? So why should it be so different if it's not been born?" Then, when he wouldn't budge, I asked why he couldn't at least eat the egg, since that's really no different from eating a regular hard-boiled egg. But, no. I tried to tell him it was all in the mind -- that some German food could be gross, too. He proclaimed that, no, none of it was disgusting. I said, "Hello?! Ground pig innards stuffed into intestines?!"

Have you tried the balut in puff pastry in Filo's? It's delicious! Even some non-balut eaters enjoy it. The Via Mare version, though it was the original, isn't as good; the pastry is tough.

Hmm...now I realize it's been ages since I've had a proper (non-fusionized) balut. I think I'll look for it next time I'm out having some beer. They say the perfect way to eat balut is in the dark, with a bottle of SMB in the other hand. :-)

Ruy said...

Nice post and well said! You are definitely a balut eating expert! =)

Em Dy said...

Me too. I'm just an egg and soup person. And I limit myself to just one per sitting. I know friends who can consume 6 in 1 go.

Was it Anthony Bourdain who failed the balut test?

Katrina said...

Can't recall if I've mentioned this to you before: Felipe told me that when they were taught in school about removing foreign bodies stuck in patient's throats, one foreign body specific to the Phils. is that hard, white thing in balut. I couldn't understand before how anyone would swallow it, since I was taught it wasn't meant to be eaten; but I now know that some people (like you) do. They had to practice how to extract it; it's actually difficult to do, since it's slippery, yet if gripped too tightly, would crumble. So be careful the next time you nibble on that, Mila! ;-)

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