Balut is a fertilized duck egg that is hard-boiled and consumed as street food. It is popular in the Philippines, China, Vietnam, and various other countries in Southeast Asia. The egg is incubated for up to 21 days until the embryo forms feathers, eyes, beak, and all the other usual bird parts. A week out from hatching, the egg is cooked and eaten as a delicacy.
If you’re wondering what balut tastes like, then keep reading; we’re about to discuss its flavor, texture, how to eat it, and much more.
What does balut taste like?
Balut has a mild savory flavor with a slightly fermented undertone. The egg juice is best compared to egg-infused chicken broth that has been watered down. Eating the yolk, you’ll find that it is similar to a slightly fishy custard-like pudding – it has a firm, yet creamy and airy texture. Veins run through the yellow-colored yolk which can be off-putting for some. The egg component does not taste like a regular cooked chicken or duck egg. Inside the top of the egg, there is an albumem. This white section should usually be discarded as it has a hard, unpleasant texture.
Without a doubt, the most challenging part about eating balut is the fetus which has a vinegary, liver-like flavor. The bird’s texture is mostly soft, like mousse, although depending on how long it has been incubated, it can have bits of crunchy beak and bones. The aroma is usually less eggy than that or a regular egg.
Most people that can overcome the unpleasant appearance of balut will usually find that it is quite enjoyable. There are no overwhelming flavors or aromas to make you gag.
Balut sa puti
If eating a 21-day old fetus is too much for you to stomach, something that may be more palatable is the balut sa puti, which is made in the Philippines. This means the duck has only been allowed to develop for 16 days and is much smaller, with less developed features. Instead, there is a bigger presence of egg yolk, closer to a regular egg.
How to eat balut
Balut is boiled for up to 30 minutes before being served warm. It is okay to simply eat the whole egg in one gulp. But others prefer to make a “mini meal” out of this snack, comprising of several courses.
1. Open it
To open the egg, hold it in one hand and tap the fatter-bottomed base of the egg on a bench until it cracks. Now turn the egg upside down and peel the shell off the bottom, so that the insides are revealed. At this point, it is recommended to add a sprinkle of salt and some soy sauce or vinegar. In Vietnam, they often top the egg with a range of additional spices, salt, pepper, and Vietnamese Coriander.
2. Sip it
Use the egg like a cup and sip the liquid until it is all gone. There isn’t a lot to drink, maybe one mouthful? This part of the eating experience is quite pleasant, even for a westerner who has never been exposed to balut.
3. Scoop it
Use a spoon to scoop out the soft yolk and eat it. Most would argue this is the best part of the boiled egg. The texture is like scrambled eggs, only more mousse-like.
4. Munch it
The final step is eating the duck embryo. Use a spoon or your fingers to pop the bird in your mouth. Most locals will eat it in one mouthful. This stage of the dish is the hardest and not everyone will be able to stomach it.
Quick tip: If you’re cooking the balut at home, reduce the fishiness of the egg by adding one tablespoon of vinegar to the boiling water.
How long will balut last?
Once cooked, balut is best eaten on the same day; however, it will last in the refrigerator below 41°F (5°C) for 4-7 days. The inside of the egg must be re-heated to a temperature of 165°F (74°C) or above for 15 seconds to ensure any bacteria has been killed.
How to cook adobong balut
Most of us will buy balut freshly cooked from a local expert in an Asian country where they are sold by street food vendors. But cooking balut at home is simple and an excellent choice of appetizer if you have guests who love a food challenge.
Prep Time: 10 mins. Cook Time: 25 mins. Serves: 6 eggs
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 balut eggs
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium onion
- ¾ cup vinegar
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- 1 ½ tsp sugar
- 4 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and allow to heat up. While you wait, peel the eggs and set aside.
- Add the oil to the heated pan then toss in the garlic and onion, sautéing until soft.
- Gently add the balut and cook for a few seconds before tipping in the vinegar and soy sauce. Allow the ingredients to continue cooking untouched until the liquid boils, then shake the pan to coat the eggs with liquid.
- Add the sugar and bay leaves then season with salt and pepper. Cook for one minute then remove from heat and allow to rest for 8-10 minutes.
- Serve with rice.
One balut egg contains 181 calories, 10 grams of fat, and one gram of carbohydrate. They are high in protein, containing 14g per serving. Balut eggs should be eaten in moderation as they are high in cholesterol (619mg), or 206% of the daily recommended intake. Source.
Balut eggs are packed with beta carotene and vitamin C, both excellent sources of antioxidants. Many locals believe the tasty snack is also an aphrodisiac.
Where to buy balut
Finding balut isn’t difficult in Southeast Asia, where it is sold by street vendors and in stores. It is harder to source in the United States, but they can be found in farmer’s markets and also online.
Frequently asked questions
Is it safe to eat Balut?
Balut should only be purchased from reputable sellers who know what they’re doing. There is potential for bacteria growth such as salmonella during incubation. It is also important to store cooked balut below 41°F (5°C) as it is categorized as a high-risk food. Source.
Are Balut eggs alive?
A balut egg contains a live embryo that is always boiled before consumption. Cooking is essential to ensure all pathogens are destroyed.
How is balut used in the kitchen?
Balut is commonly fried or boiled and can be eaten on its own or with a pinch of salt and a mix of vinegar, garlic, and chili. Adding extra herbs and spices is also a good option. The balut egg can also be added to pastries as a filling or tossed into an omelet. It also gained notoriety for being used in ice cream! Cooking the fertilized eggs using an adobong recipe makes a delicious dish.
Fast Facts about balut
- It was invented around 200 years ago by the Chinese. Back then it was a high-class food, only eaten by the upper-echelon of society.
- Beer is the favorite choice of beverage to serve with it.
- Cambodians enjoy adding lime juice and ground pepper.
- Sometimes chicken eggs are used instead of duck eggs.
- In 2015, a town in the Philippines, Pateros, set a world record by creating a dish with 1000 individual baluts!
Why does cheese smell?
The Swedes have a fermented herring dish (surströmming), while the Scottish are famous for haggis. But nothing will prepare you for your first experience with balut – it could shock you. For many westerners, the idea of finding a small blood clot in an egg is disgusting. Plucking out an entire fetus takes things to a whole new level. Could you handle this culinary encounter or would it be culture shock overload?
Those that overcome the aesthetics of the dish usually get a pleasant surprise. Although it has a different flavor than anything you’ll have tasted before, it is mild and inoffensive. Surprisingly so, in fact. Like any food review we publish on this site, we always recommend trying new dishes. Even if it is a little shocking! So if you happen to stroll past a food vendor on your next holiday and see balut on display, buy one, and eat it.
One final comment: food safety is essential with this meal. When traveling abroad, you’ll want to ask for the advice of a local Filipino or Vietnamese guide where the best place is to get your balut. The right advice could save you a trip to the ER!
What is the worst food you have ever encountered? Please share in the comments below.