Cebu is a food lover’s paradise. From quaint cafes and classy restaurants to native food hubs and night markets, there’s good food to be found at every turn. Though, if you want a taste of authentic Cebuano food culture, you’ll have to give the infamous balut a shot.
Since we like to brag about our native delicacies, no foreign visitor is ever spared from the culinary dare that is balut-tasting. It’s sort of a good-natured rite of passage. You can say no, of course, but you’re highly encouraged to try.
What is balut?
It’s a hard-boiled duck egg that’s been incubated between 16 to 25 days. For your reference, duck eggs hatch at 27 to 30 days. So you can bet there’s a partially developed duck embryo inside that egg.
Without that embryo, a boiled duck egg is simply penoy – a different thing altogether. It contains just a vein-y yolk and a rubbery white part.
Balut sa puti
A 17- to 18-day old egg, also called balut sa puti (balut in white), is the tourist-friendly choice and considered as the ideal balut. The embryo is big enough and is wrapped by the white portion of the egg, ergo the name. The still soft and fluffy embryo can be gulped down in a second.
Beyond 21 days old, the embryo will have discernible features of a duckling. If you’re an adventurous eater, definitely go for that. But if you aren’t keen on having a beak and some feathers in your food, then stick to a younger, less developed egg.
Some vendors mark the eggs with the number of days of incubation. Others simply eye it, so it can be a hit or miss.
While it’s been called many things like peculiar and gross, balut is nothing but tasty. It’s best served warm, with a dousing of spicy vinegar and a sprinkling of salt – balut vendors have this at hand for anyone who wants to snack on the go.
If you’re out drinking with friends, balut makes for a perfect pulutan as well as an effective hangover food.
Seriously, once you get past the appalling appearance, you’ll figure it’s not so bad at all.
Where to find it
Balut vendors traditionally peddle around residential areas, local parks and wet markets. But, now, you’ll see them on the city streets as well. One balut costs around 18 pesos ($0.34) a pop.
You’ll know when a balut vendor is nearby if you hear someone yelling “Baluuut!” The second half of the word is intentionally stretched to attract attention. It’s hard to miss.
Other vendors don’t walk the streets – they are stationed on sidewalks near schools, hospitals, drinking spots and other public areas.
Balut is typically sold from dusk to dawn. But now you can have it any time of day in some local restaurants where it’s served in adobo sauce, a sizzling platter or as a deep-fried snack.
How to eat balut like a pro
Now we come to the exciting part: eating balut. The process is unlike eating your regular boiled egg, so read closely:
- Find the rounder, flatter end of the egg, and crack a small hole. The balut is filled with natural broth, so you don’t want to open it up at once. Try not to spill any of the tasty liquid – it’s the bomb!
- Sprinkle a bit of salt into the hole. Swish the broth gently and slurp it in one go.
- Peel away. Whether you eat the embryo first or last depends on your liking. But the pros usually eat the creamy egg yolk first and save the best (embryo) for last. The white part, also called bato (stone), tends to be tough and difficult to chew, so just toss it away.
Tip: Before chucking the edible bits into your mouth, try dipping in vinegar for a more flavourful bite.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty. The mess is all part of the experience.
Habal2 are another local specialty: the motorcycles swarming the streets of Cebu! What does the name even mean? Read that and more in our article on Habal2.
What does balut taste like?
Try it to find out! 🙂
What does the name mean?
The name balut stems from the Malay word “balot” which means “wrap” according to this report on the Aphrodisiacs site. It’s worth mentioning that the Filipino word balot also means the same thing. The name perfectly defines the exotic food because it’s a treat covered by a shell.
Benefits of Balut: Protein, Cholesterol & Aphrodisiac?
While Balut isn’t the most healthy food, it has a bunch of benefits, some of them controversial. 🙂
When it comes to nutritional value, Balut has around 14 grams of crude protein, 188 calories, 2 milligrams of iron and 116 milligrams of calcium. It’s an inexpensive and easily available source of protein. However, as much as we love the exotic delicacy, we don’t eat a lot of it at once. That’s because balut is high in cholesterol – 619 milligrams, to be exact.
Not all Filipinos like it, so foreign people’s aversion to it is perfectly understandable. It does look repulsive to the uninitiated.
Countries like Vietnam (Hot vit lon), China (Maodan) and Cambodia (Pong tia koon) also have their balut.
Some Filipinos believe the dish is an aphrodisiac, though this isn’t scientifically proven yet.
Looking past Balut
This part of the country has more interesting street foods to offer. Balut is just an appetizer. Stay longer and try other favorite dishes like ginabot (pork crackling made from pig intestines), tuslob buwa (pig’s brain gravy) and isaw (chicken intestine BBQ).
Cheers to a gastronomic adventure!
Freaking out at the thought of eating balut? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered! Check out our page for Vegetarian Food in Cebu.
About the author
Hey, it’s Chenzi! A writer made in Cebu. Stringing words is my bread and butter, but baking and mothering my 3-year-old are what feed my soul. I have an insatiable thirst for learning.