From Crispy Beaks to Crunchy Legs: The Unique Culinary Delight of Balut

close up of a duckling

A fertilized bird egg, usually a duck egg, steamed after being incubated for a period of 14-21 days is called Balut. The number of days fertilized are vary based on the cultural practices of the region. If the egg is incubated for a longer duration, it results in a balut that has well-developed embryos with identifiable duckling characteristics. The bones of the embryo are malleable enough to be bitten and swallowed in entirety. Balut is commonly produced from the mallard duck, also known as the “Pateros duck”. The contents are consumed directly from the shell.

Balut or Balot (Bah-loot) is a culinary delicacy that can be found in many Southeast Asian countries, particularly in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It is a fertilized duck or chicken egg that has been incubated for around 2-3 weeks, before being boiled or steamed and consumed as a popular street food or snack. This dish has garnered immense popularity over the years and continues to be a point of fascination for food enthusiasts all over the world.

Eggs with Legs

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of balut is the presence of an edible, partially developed embryo inside the egg. Because the embryo has distinguishable features like bones, feathers, and beaks, it is frequently referred to as the “egg with legs.” A meal with such a clear connection to its origin may be intimidating to some, but for many others, it is an enticing culinary experience that they simply cannot pass up.

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The process of producing balut requires a great deal of skill and patience, as the eggs need to be incubated at a specific temperature and humidity level for around two to three weeks.

During this time, the embryo inside the egg will develop until it is ready to be cooked and consumed. Depending on the desired stage of embryo development, the length of incubation might range from a few days to over 20 days.

Balut is typically enjoyed as a popular street food in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines, where it is considered a popular delicacy. It is commonly sold by street vendors and can be served with salt, chili, or vinegar. Many people also like to pair it with beer, making it a perfect snack during social gatherings.

Nutritional Value: A fertility booster

Although balut may seem strange to some, it is actually very nutritious, packed with vitamins and minerals vital for healthy living. Actually, one of the reasons why balut has become so popular is its nutritional value. It is rich in protein and essential minerals, which make it an excellent source of energy for people who lead an active lifestyle. Balut is also believed to have medicinal properties, such as boosting fertility and improving libido.

In addition to providing protein, balut also contains essential fatty acids and lots of vitamins such as B-complex vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Iron. The nutrient content in the embryo has been found to be especially high due to its rapid growth prior to consumption.

A more developed Balut (Image Source: Nepenthes / WikiCommons)

It also provides a good source of calcium which helps promote strong bones and teeth. Balut is also considered a low-calorie snack with only 70 calories per serving making it an ideal choice for those looking for healthier snack options with nutritional benefits.

A Guinness Record for Largest Balut

Former Pateros mayor Jaime C. Medina teamed up with the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in Manila and the History Channel on April 10, 2015, to set a new world record for the largest serving of balut. The CCA chefs, led by Tristan Encarnacion, cooked 1,000 pieces of balut into an adobo dish, which weighed 117.5 kilograms.

The locals enjoyed the resulting dish in a symbolic “boodle fight” on B. Morcilla Street, with tables decorated with banana leaves stretching along the street. The dish included 7 kg of potatoes, 1 kg of ginger, 14 liters of cane vinegar, and 10.5 liters of soy sauce. [Source: Guinness World Records]

Despite its unique and somewhat intimidating appearance, balut has become a beloved dish in many parts of the world. It is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of Southeast Asian cuisine, and its popularity shows that adventurous food enthusiasts are always on the lookout for new culinary experiences. Whether you’re a local or a traveler visiting the region, a bite of balut is an excellent way to sample the unique flavors and cultural traditions of Southeast Asia.

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