Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Fear Down: Balut

     I have always prided myself on being a person who could taste food objectively.  Gamy expectations doesn't sour undiscovered flavors for me.  Fear doesn't turn my stomach before the meal gets a chance.  If it's good: it's good.  If it's bad: it's bad.  However, one dish turns me in to a yellow-bellied hypocrite!  One dish that had me shaking in my boots..

     My bad responses stem from watching the "Dumplings" segment of 3 Extremes; where they subtly equivocate eating Balut with.....umm, maybe you should watch the movie for yourself.
     Anyways, the thought of chewing on a duck's embryo made my face twitch.  It also didn't help that balut is a dish that is eaten relatively slow.  It just seemed too far.  Having something I've never tasted on my blacklist made me feel bad.  Although everyone agreed with me, I saw my fear as a blemish on one of my best qualities: the willingness to try anything at least once.
     One day, a Filipino friend of mine invited me to eat with her.  Today's menu: rice, chicken and balut, her treat!  I reluctantly accepted her invitation.  Excited and nervous simultaneously, I didn't want to disrespect her culture by spitting out her food.  Millions of people consider this a delicacy, who am I to find it unnatural?

     She taught me the proper way of eating balut: cracking the shell at the top of the egg, after sprinkling a little salt, you sip the broth.  To my surprise, it wasn't bad at all, it was like a salty, egg soup.  The visual aspect was the trial I had to overcome.  Peeling the shell off, there was also a thin, veiny membrane encasing the yolk and embryo.  I couldn't help but think, "Poor baby," as I caught the first glimpse of his/her beak and eyes.
    (Side note: I never understood why people object to eating baby animals while devouring their adult counterparts.  As if veal and baby chickens were robbed of a happy childhood locked in a barn,  Barn life seems miserable.  I think eating them while they are young is a more humane approach.)

     The egg yolk was exactly like a hardboiled egg, no noticeable difference.  Although it looked slimier, the texture remained the same, as well.  Watching my friend eat her balut, she merely sucked the body out from the egg.  I followed suit.  I actually enjoyed the flavor, the bones were barely noticeable.  No feathers.  No burst of blood.  No tortured baby quacking.  

After my second and third helping
I felt silly for being so afraid.