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Saturday, March 19, 2005
BALUT. That much-loved, most maligned Filipino delicacy: favourite of beer drinkers all over the country, degree zero for culinary nestiness (used as a stunt on TV's Fear Factor), the dreaded food test for the foreigners (and Filipino American).

Say it: Balut. Balut. Your lips gently press together at the beginning, your tongue flicks quickly towards your palate, your lips move as one in the shape of a narrow ooo, and end with your tongue teasingly poking behind your teeth,

This is, however, in contrast to how Balut is sold in the Philippines, by ambulant vendors who yell in the streets, "BaluuuuuuuuT!".

But there is little sensual per se about Balut; it is, after all, an aborted duck fetus. As opposed to, say, eating an ordinary chicken egg with yolk and all, the Balut is already fertilized and ready to go, as it were, with an actual, healthy, living duck embryo (incubated up to 18 days in a hatchery). And this where, of course, the Balut gets its notoriety; the duck really looks like a duck, eyes, pink little limbs, gray feathers, useless beak and all.

My fondest memories about Balut had more to do with buying them. They were always sold late at night (my father would bring home after playing mahjong until midnight), but sometimes we would go out ourselves. In Los Banos, they were sold by this gaunt, gray-haired woman who would squat by the side of the road. The Balut would be swaddled in cloth, and nestled unwrap the rolled up blanket that kept the eggs warm, give us a thimbleful of salt in a twist recycled graphing paper, and count her memory in the light of the candle anchored with melted wax on the pavement. (I remember these were windless, humid July nights). We would then ride home, feeling the heat of the eggs in our laps.

Instructions for eating Balut:

** Boil water gently in a pot, and put the Balut in it for a few minutes.

** Untwist the salt and put it in a dish (A dipping dish, the kind used for soy sauce or patis, works very well.)

** Hold the Balut upright and, with the underside of a spoon, make a crack at the top of the egg.

** Chip away pieces of eggshell with your finger until you have a hole about the diameter of a finger(This could be bigger, it depends).

** Sometimes you'll see some kind of gauzy membrane. Pierce it.

** You can peek inside the Balut now and see the broth. Is this albumen? (I always preferred to think of it as amniotic fluid).

** Continue removing the eggshell. Depending on the how you cracked it open, you may then see an undifferentiated mass of stuff the feels like slightly runny, soft-boiled egg in texture. Dip the stuff in the salt and eat it.

** Or you may encounter a hard-spherical section that looks like a seed. Throw that away. (My godmother swears that it's all calcium and good for you, but it's tasteless and hard for me.)

** Or you may finally get to the jackpot: the duck fetus. You may pick it up by the head- at which point the body unrolls from its fetal position and its little legs dangle-dip it also in the salt, and pop it into your mouth.

** Wash down with a cold bottle of San Miguel beer.(I think I may have been drinking it with milk when I was in dlementary school- now that sounds disgusting. Balut and milk).

Answers to frequently asked questions:

** Yes you can feel the feathers on your tongue.

** As a former American professor discovered, entering a pitch-black closet so you dont' have to see it makes no difference; you can still smell the faint, slightly gamey, deliciously menstrual aroma.

** no, the duck eyes are closed.

** Of course, it's dead.

** No, I have never been able to buy good Balut in the United States, and I won't try to. One time my schoolmate, Tim (can't remember his last name, but he lived in Mountain Province once and was studying Heidegger and Japan for his dissertation). Jenny Franco ( I wonder where she is now), and I drove to Queens to Roosevelt Avenue to buy Filipino food. I bought a six pack of San Miguel beer and two Balut eggs, which were simply horrible - they were all pinkish and looked under-incubated, and they tasted rotten.

** No, you cant't pop the whole thing in your mouth. To begin with there's too much, unless you have a big mouth. You have to separate the Balut into its component parts to appreciate it, and that requires reverent contemplation of the duckling, forever asleep.

** Yes, it tastes great and I miss it.

(Abstracted from PILIPINAS2.0 by Benito Vergara)
posted by infraternam meam @ 2:58 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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