Is Balut Safe To Eat?

Whether it's roasted so that its skin is shiny and crisp, or served with an orange sauce, most of us have no problem eating duck, unless you talk about consuming duck while it's still in its shell and before it's been hatched. Duck embryo is a delicacy, and can be found across Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. But it is probably best known globally as "balut," the version found in the Philippines (via Eat Your World) and on reality TV shows like Fear Factor (via The Takeout).

A duck egg is ready to become balut after it is fertilized and left alone to develop for anywhere between two to three weeks, or 16 to 20 days, depending on who you buy your balut from. The egg is then boiled for about 30 minutes and consumed warm, usually with salt and pepper, or with a local vinegar (via Philippine Primer). Regardless, a duck egg isn't balut until it's grown a few parts you wouldn't expect to find in an egg, like eyes, a beak, bones, and feathers. As The Takeout puts it, eating balut is effectively consuming a duck fetus. There is a another version of balut, too — penoy (or a failed balut) — for those on the squeamish side, which is basically all yolk and broth and not much else.

Not every Filipino will eat balut

If you're on the fence about trying balut, it might be helpful to know that there's a faction of Filipino diners are just as squeamish over balut as non-Filipino balut eaters might be. Still, the dish is popular enough to be sold as street food in many parts of the country and it's especially popular with night owls who have had a few drinks. To folks that are out and about for whatever reason, balut is considered the perfect, nutritious, high-protein snack.

Depending on who you ask, balut can be one of the most disgusting things you can set your eyes on (never mind eat), but it can also be a delicacy that wows. Even if you're nervous about eating the entire thing, the balut broth, which can be accessed by carefully cracking the egg at its narrowest point before sipping the liquid inside, has a delicate flavor which you might enjoy... before passing the rest of the balut on to a pro-eater that isn't so squeamish.

You need to eat balut the day it's cooked

While every balut connoisseur has his or her own preferred source, it's safe to say that there is a small window when every single balut can be safely consumed. "Balut is generally going to be cooked on the day that it's going to be sold and eaten. It doesn't save very well. It has a lot to do with the eggshells being very porous, and the sauce [inside the egg] will evaporate through the shell. You really have to eat balut right then and there," Tracey Paska, a Manila-based food writer told The Takeout. If you dare to, that is. For your courage, you'll be rewarded with good proteins, iron, calcium, and only 188 calories (via Philippine News).