Balut is not only popular in Vietnam but also in some Asian countries such as China, Philippine, and Cambodia. However, Vietnamese balut is left a little longer than that in other countries. It is also cooked, served, and eaten in a different way. Although this kind of food is delicious, cheap, and healthy, it is not popular in other parts of the globe because of the scare of eating the whole unborn duck.
What is Balut?
It has been researched that Balut did not appear in South East Asia until the 1800s. Let spend some time to read about the history of Fertile duck egg in Vietnam. In the past, Vietnamese people made their livings on farming animals including ducks. A few duck egg were not incubated successfully, for example they were broken in the incubation period. The farmers did not throw away the eggs but boil, then eat them, and found a new delicacy. Instead of incubating duck eggs for about 28 days in order to have ducklings, Vietnamese people use the eggs in incubation period at day 17 – 21 as a favorite food. At this time, the embryo are still small but most of the parts of ducklings’ bodies have been developed. A duck egg at day 17 – 19 are called young balut, its embryo is smaller, a large amount of egg yolk and albumen remain. It is recommended for children and beginners. Duck eggs at day 20 – 21 are called old balut. More hard leathers covers the embryo, the beak is also harder, less than 10% of egg yolk and albumen remain. Men and adventurous foodies like this kind of Balut.
Is Balut healthy?
Fertilized duck egg is a cheap and best sources of protein and calcium. It contains beta carotene and Vitamin C which support your immune system and clean radicals from your bloodstream. The egg is packed with niacin, riboflavin and thiamine which boost your energy.
In Vietnam, Fertilized duck egg is a favorite light meal, beer food, and nutritious food for pregnant, children, patients and elderly people in Vietnam as well as Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese pregnants believe that the fertile eggs help their unborn babies to be taller, stronger and more intelligent. It has been said that the babies would have more hair if their mothers eat fertile duck eggs during the pregnancy. Balut is good food for a dietary supplement because one egg contains 181 calories, 14 grams of protein, 10 gram of fat, 1 gram of carbs, 100 milligrams of calcium, iron and phosphorus
Balut eggs are an inexpensive and easily obtained source of protein throughout Southeast Asia. They’re packed with vitamin C and beta carotene, both of which are powerful antioxidants that help clean free radicals from your bloodstream and support your immune system. In addition, they contain niacin, riboflavin and thiamine, which help you metabolize energy. At 188 calories each, with only 14 grams of protein and loads of calcium, iron and phosphorus, balut eggs are a healthy addition to an adventurous diet.
It is researched that we should not eat Balut with milk, soybeans, pig brains, goose, rabbit, turtle, persimmon, foods containing lots of tartaric acid and vitamin C. Do not eat overnight cooked Balut, drink tea after eating Balut or eat many fertilized eggs at the same time. It is not recommended to eat this food in the early morning or at night. However, trying one fertilized duck egg at night makes no sense. People having liver or kidney problems, fevers, people with gout should not eat this food.
Where to buy Balut in Vietnam?
In the recent, Fertilized duck egg has become more and more popular so that Balut making is one of the best business opportunities. You can not find uncooked Fertilized duck eggs at supermarkets or groceries in the city. These foods are sold popularly at local markets at a cheap price. One egg costs about 5,000 VND. They usually buy and sell by 10s of eggs because a person can eat a few eggs at the same time. Vietnamese people call ten “một chục”, Balut “hột vịt lộn”. Just tell sellers “một chục hột vịt lộn” to buy ten fertilized duck eggs. You can also tell them you prefer young (“non”) or old (“già”). Ben Thanh Market and Tan Dinh Market in District 1 are 2 places to buy this food in the city center.
The heavier the fertilized duck egg is, the younger it is. Do not choose a light egg, it is too old to eat. A good fertilized duck egg should have a shinning and white shell. It should not have a dark shell or dark spots on the shell.
How do Vietnamese people cook Balut?
Vietnamese people have created a wide range of recipes from the fertilized duck egg. They use this food to cook rice congee, soups, hot pots (goat hot pot, fresh crab hot pot), stir-fried fertilized duck egg with tamarind sauce. However, the most popular method of cooking fertilized duck egg is boiling. The boiled eggs are served with Vietnamese mint (rau răm) and a mix of salt, ground black pepper and lime (or kumquat) juice.
It takes from 15 to 20 minutes to boil Fertilized duck eggs. They usually add some salt into the water to prevent the eggs from cracking. There is a trick to know if the boiled egg is ready. If you can pick the egg up with chopsticks, it is ready.
Boiled Balut can be eaten hot right after boiling. Or they can peel the boiled eggs, then stir-fry them with tamarind sauce. Sometimes, they crack uncooked Balut into Goat hot pot or Field crab hot pot, Field crab congee hot pot.
How to eat Balut in Vietnam?
It is simple to eat Fertilized duck egg in congee, soups, hot pots and Stir-fried fertilized duck egg. You can see a whole baby duck and be scared of it. However, it tastes great. I will write more details about eating the Boiled fertilized duck egg which is usually served in a small cup or bowl (usually called egg cup) and eaten using an egg spoon or a teaspoon. Below is the step by step instructions on how to eat Boiled fertilized duck egg:
- Use the spoon give the top of the egg several sharp taps.
- Use your hand to peel a small hole on the membrane of the egg.
- Sip the warm amniotic fluid, a warm, gamey liquid which tastes like a rich broth.
- Get a small piece of egg yolk using the spoon, dip it in the dipping sauce, eat it with Vietnamese mint. It is normal to eat the egg yolk.
- Get a small piece of duck fetus (embryo), dip it in the sauce and eat it with Vietnamese mint. How do you feel? Is it ok? Terrifying, funny, normal, or amazing?
- Finish the whole fertilized duck egg. You have just passed the challenge.
Note: Fertilized duck egg must be eaten hot. Cold eggs taste terrifying, even to Vietnamese people.
Where to eat Balut in Vietnam?
It is easy to find Fertilized duck egg at street food stalls or casual restaurants. Street food vendors who sell Fertilized duck eggs have only a basket containing rice hulls, eggs, and a cloth cover. The eggs were boiled and are kept warm using the rice hulls and the cloth cover. There are some small plastic chairs, stools, and tables around the vendors. Egg cups, teaspoons, dip bowls, a mix of salt and pepper, lime or kumquat slices, Vietnamese mints are available. Vietnamese people love to drink some beers while eating this food fear factor so that the vendors also sell beers. At snail and shellfish restaurants (also called snail restaurants or quán ốc), you can find Balut on the menus. The price of a boiled fertilized duck egg is about 10,000 VND (~0.5 USD).
“Xa xui” or “get rid of bad luck” – A funny fact
Vietnamese people usually meet and eat Fertilized duck eggs after they have had bad luck. The egg is oval-shaped, much like the number zero. In Vietnam, number zero is considered a bad number. “Đi ăn hột vịt lộn xả xui” means go eating Fertilized duck egg and remove the bad luck.
Other fertilized eggs?
Besides Fertilized duck egg, Vietnamese people also like eating Fertilized quail egg, Fertilized chicken egg which can be boiled, stir-fried with tamarind sauce.
Video about balut in Vietnam
I have taken a video of how to cook and eat Balut. I also divide the parts of a boiled Fertilized duck eggs so that you can see what is inside this unusual food.