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?