April 18, 2008
Today our balut arrived! I admit, I was half excited and half nervous as I was waiting for the postwoman to bring it. After the durian incident I wasn't so sure I trusted my own judgment and curiosity any longer.
Before it arrived though, we went to an Asian grocery in Chinatown called Welcome Foods. I heard they had Grass Jelly and some nifty drinks that I wanted to try so we thought we'd stop in and check it out. We ended up getting the grass jelly, and several drinks. The drinks included Basil Seed drink, tamarind juice, grass jelly drink, milk peanut, chrysanthemum tea, black soy milk, congee drink, white gourd juice, pennywort, and birds nest drink (yes with real birds nest).
The balut arrived shortly after we got home, actually when we were pulling out of the driveway to go get batteries for the camera she came. I took the package with us to the store and amused myself with thoughts of what would happen if a thief stole the package from the car only to realize once they got home that it was balut eggs.
When we came back home I boiled some water with a generous amount of salt. In the meantime we wanted to see what the inside of one looked like raw so we cracked one and put it in a pot in the backyard. Mason's cat came over to inspect and ended up eating the entire thing. I was relieved that the duck was much smaller than I had feared. Still, watching the cat slurp up and devour the fetus made me wonder if I would have the nerve to do it after all. Unfortunately this occurred as I was putting the batteries into the camera so I don't have a picture of it for you.
I decided to pop open one of my drinks to go with the balut. I chose the basil seed drink. I read the ingredients and it listed "basil seed, sugar, honey, banana flavor". It tasted a bit unusual at first, but not bad at all. The only strange part was the basil seeds floating in the drink. They were tiny seeds, but were in a thick, clear, chewy, jelly like bubble. When you took a sip dozens of them entered your mouth for you to chew up and swallow. Interesting.
The first thing I noticed was there wasn't any "soup" inside. The soup is the liquid inside the egg you are supposed to slurp up after making a small hole in the top of the egg, before you peel it. This was as dry as a desert inside. I thought perhaps it was because it was cracked though and maybe the soup leaked out before we peeled it. Mason looked at me and questioned "will I be the first to try it?". I watched closely as he took his first bite. He went straight for the duck. He paused and chewed as I eagerly awaited his opinion. "It tastes like...a hard boiled egg". He popped the rest into his mouth, only to remember the warning about the inedible piece at the bottom. Out that came and was discarded with the peeling.
It was my turn. I was the one who wanted to do this, right? Wasn't it my bright idea to try all sorts of strange and unusual food? I've eaten things way worse than eggs before. I can do this. I told Mason to bring the camera outside to photograph me eating my egg in the better natural lighting. I grabbed my egg, a bag to put my peeling in and all the courage I had inside me, and walked out the back door.
As I peeled my egg I told Mason "this really isn't any different than eating duck and an egg at the same time, right?". He just gave me a strange look. What can I say? I am a Gemini, I am allowed to both want and be scared of something at the same time. I noticed that my egg also had no soup inside. I was looking forward to eating my balut the correct way, slurping the soup first, but alas mine had nothing to slurp.
I took my first bite, going for the yolk instead of the duck at first to sort of ease my way into it. To my pleasure, it did indeed taste like a regular boiled egg. I added some salt on top, which I had forgotten until that point and went for another bite. "Oh eat the duck, sissy!" my husband called out. "I'm getting there!" I whined back at him, eyeballing the feathers now emerging from my egg. I took another bite. Nothing left but ducky now! Some foods are better eaten quickly and not stared at too much. I wish I had remember that saying when I stared down at the duck head in my hands below. I pulled off a bit, looked down and it was a tiny leg and foot. Oh well, here goes. It was surprisingly soft. I took the last bite into my mouth and chewed. Not so bad. I was expecting to feel the feathers tickling my tongue or the crunch of the beak, skull and bones on my teeth but no. It was just like eating an egg, only with more texture and a richer taste. Aside from the appearance, which would rate a 10 on the strange food scale, the taste and texture were not very weird at all.
My daughter Miaoxin was with me and decided she wanted an egg too, so I went inside and grabbed her one. I peeled it for her and took a photo of her holding it, but once she got a good look she started saying "No, I don't like ducky egg! I don't want!" Girl, you ate durian with a smile and balut grosses you out? Have priorities! Mason took her egg and finished it off.
I went inside and called out to all the kids "Who wants a hard boiled egg!?". Immediately my sons Jacob and QiQi came running. Jacob began to peel his then looked at me sideways. "What kind of eggs are these?" he asked. "Duck" I smiled. I wasn't lying. He took a bite and quickly realized there was a prize inside this egg. He paused for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and ate it anyways. Gage came downstairs in time to find out that it was balut before peeling one. He passed on eating one. QiQi happily grabbed an egg. It took him longer to peel his but once he did, he had no qualms about eating it whole. After the second bite or so I noticed the duck fetus go into his mouth. Knowing a good photo op when I see one I called out to him to open his mouth. Mason said "He doesn't even know what he's eating!". I showed Qi the little duck to him and he nodded knowingly. He gulped it down and asked for another. I obliged.
Mason is planning to take a few of the remaining balut to work with him on friday to give to his co-workers (he plans to only tell them they are duck eggs and let them figure the rest out on their own). I have asked him to record it for me! I know it sounds mean, but his friends are always playing practical jokes on each other. This one should be the ultimate!