My Filipino Post-Drinking Meal: Balut Eggs

Formerly published in TofuMag.com August 3 2013
By Elliot Chan

The tricycle engine roared loudly down the silent Bayombong streets. I had my fair share of gin and I was drunk enough to do anything, but I had no idea where I was. Gripping onto the sidecar of the tricycle, all I knew was I was following my friend’s family through the small residential back alleys in the Philippines, or were they the main roads, it is hard to tell here.

We finally came to a stop and we all squeezed out, all six of us on a motorbike and a sidecar. There was a hawker’s stand on the corner of the street. Several lights hung above casting a haunting glare. A lady stood in the shadows; she had a bowl in front of her. I approached—undaunted, uncertain. A pile of eggs sat in the little porcelain nest. Someone gestured to one of them and I helped myself. But before I could grab one, the lady selected one on my behalf. She struck it with a spoon, ripped off the shattered shards and handed it to me.

Perhaps I should have had the classic Western reaction to an egg embryo, but I’m Chinese. I had duck embryo before. Still the idea of serving eggs on the side of a street in the middle of the night was still far enough from the norm for me to enjoy the novelty.

balut egg diagram

I was too drunk to pick at the bits and pieces of the little baby bird, so I just shoved the whole thing into my mouth. I felt the feather, an uncommonfeeling against my tongue. But that sensation was dwarfed by the sudden crunch of the bone. I bit down and a tangy, yet savory flavour. It was a surprising taste, that wasn’t horrible. The texture confused my tongue as it wrapped around the orb of yoke beneath the skeleton. It was still solid so I needed another bite. The hemisphere separated into two crumbling bits. There was no room in my mouth to do anything else—I must swallow.

My memories are unclear, whether the digesting process took a long time, or if I had inserted another embryo into my mouth before I finished the first, I wasn’t sure. I was enjoying myself, but my companions were grimacing. I felt a little pride, though I know there really wasn’t anything to be proud of. I expected a complement from the locals, but there was nothing to complement. All I really did was eat an egg. But when you come from the West where stores don’t even open pass midnight, finding an egg embryo stand in the dead of nightwas something worth celebrating.balut eggs

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