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Sunday, March 15, 2009

What is Balut ?



Balut is an egg that has been fertilized and contains a partially developed embryo. In countries where the balut is considered to be a delicacy, a duck egg or a chicken egg may be used to prepare the dish. The mode of preparation for balut is very simple. Generally, the egg is boiled and eaten directly from the shell, in much the same manner that boiled and unfertilized eggs are eaten around the world.

In countries where balut is commonly served, the fertilized duck egg or chicken egg is considered to be a superior source of protein. The boiled embryo is also considered to add flavor and texture to the egg. A balut may be enjoyed as a quick snack along with beer or some form of ale, or be employed as the centerpiece for a meal.

Along with the basic method of boiling the fertilized chicken egg or duck egg, it is not uncommon for the exposed contents of the shell to be doused with vinegar, chili peppers, or a variety of spices. Some prefer to not eat the white sections remaining in the shell, while others consume all the contents found within the egg proper. Balut can also be included as a center for baked pastries, as well as mixed into an egg batter and fried into an entrée.

Balut is developed by allowing the fertilized egg to begin developing the embryo for several days. During this period, the egg is kept warm. Generally, eight or nine days of consistent warmth are sufficient to allow the embryo to develop. At this juncture, the balut is ready for boiling. After boiling the balut, the contents of the egg can be used in a number of different recipes. Generally, the balut is always served while still warm.

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Fertilized duck eggs sold as balut in the U.S. range from 16 to 20 days in age. The older the egg, the larger the chick and the more pronounced its feathers, bones, and beak. An embryo at 17 days has beak and feathers which are more developed at 20 days. Normally, after being fertilized, a chick hatches after 26 to 28 days of incubation.

The taste of the egg also depends on the breed of the laying duck. Different breeds of ducks supposedly produce balut varying in taste, with Muscovy ducks being hailed by some as the "cream of the crop". The kind of balut sold in the U.S. is made from duck eggs. Chicken eggs may be made into balut as well, but duck eggs are preferred by the majority of Filipino Americans since they are larger and thought to be better in taste.



But whether the fertilized egg is chicken or duck, there are two types of balut. One is called mamatong by Filipinos. Mamatong balut has the embryo floating on top of the white and yolk and the consumer can easily detect it. Roughly translated to mean "the float," mamatong occurs between 14 to 16 days. The second is balut sa puti where the embryo is wrapped by a thin, whitish membrane and one cannot tell whether there is an embryo or not. In balut sa puti, the embryo is hidden by the albumen's white film. Balut sa puti is 17 to 18 days old and it is the preferred favorite of Filipinos in the U.S. and in the Philippines. A folk belief in the Philippines lets people know if an egg has developed into mamatong or balut sa puti. One takes a balut egg and drops it in water. If it floats, it is mamatong, but if it sinks, it is balut sa puti.

Just how good and fresh a balut is after it has been boiled can be determined by its broth, called "soup" by balut eaters. After cracking a hole in the wide part of the shell, the consumer usually sips the broth before he or she eats any part of the tiny chick and remaining yolk. If the balut is good, its soup has a sweet, clean taste. Fresh balut can be good for ten days to two weeks. Cooked balut if stored in the refrigerator will last for as long as a month. But the longer the balut is in the refrigerator, the more likely that its liquid will be dried out.

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