For more than 20 years, I’ve been dreading this moment-the day when I would once again have to eat balut. Balut is a duck egg that’s been fertilized and the embryo allowed to develop for 14 to 21 days, then steamed or boiled. It’s a popular breakfast in the Philippines, but also in Vietnam, where it’s known as hot vit lon-and where, in the summer of 1996, I first tasted it.
As I remember, it was not great. But that may have been for two reasons: 1) It was scrambled, not boiled, and the fetal duck was splayed out in a pool of egg white like someone who’d leapt off a skyscraper; and 2) It was likely an older embryo, so the bill was rubbery, the skull toothsome, and the feathers just beginning to become fluffy.
Also, I was 22 years old, and therefore stupid and scared.
Now, however, I’m a lot older, just as stupid, but a lot less adventurous. Plus, I have an intern to assist me-a guy named Andrew Zimmern, who got the gig only because his mom called me up and begged me pitifully. She said he’d eaten balut before and could give me a few pointers.
So now, he and I will breakfast on half-hatched egg, and try to determine, our ages and experiences aside: Is it gross?