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Balut is the name for an embryonic duck egg that is boiled and consumed. Considered a delicacy in its native Philippines and oft-celebrated by the Filipino diaspora, balut is unfortunately lampooned by many outsiders though some other cultures in Southeast Asia consider embryonic eggs a delicacy.

Making the balut

To produce balut, a duck farmer incubates fertilized eggs in layers of hay or rice husks insulated by burlap. After six days, the eggs are checked for embryonic development. Unfertilized eggs are culled and cured in brine while dead embryos are discarded. Slow-developing embryonic eggs are culled, boiled, and sold by the name of penoy. The remaining, healthy embryos are placed back in incubation. Those remaining healthy and alive at the two week mark are boiled and sold as balut.

Off to market

Much like an ice cream man, a balut vendor will take a cart of freshly boiled balut through neighborhoods at dusk, crying, "Balut! Balut! Penoy! Balut!" Wallets will open, money will exchange hands, and a lucky consumer will take a some warm balut back to his family or eat one on the spot.

Eating balut

Gently tap the bottom of the egg and peel off just a thumb's width to access the succulent and nutritious amniotic sac, adding salt to taste. Drink the amniotic fluid then continue to peel the shell and savor the balut.

According to my family, balut with just a hint of soft down is considered culinary perfection; that is when the embryonic duckling is at its most tender.

Balut on the Web

There is a wonderful description of balut production on this page:
www.asiacuisine.com/publishing/sepoct13/page78.html

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