Welcome back to our new SFist feature, Treasure Hunt, as SFist Natacha scours the city and outlying areas for things one definitely cannot find at your average Walgreens.
When visiting your republican parents in Ohio for the holidays, it can be hard to have a satisfying conversation over the dinner table. Worry not, we found a fantastic ice-breaker at the Alemany Farmer's Market.
"Do you think you can swallow a baby chicken down your throat?" Says the young woman, massaging her larynx pointedly from behind her stand. The bright white oversized eggs are duck eggs, but that is not the most unusual thing about them. The real kicker, and the reason why the nice lady is trying to talk us out of buying one, is that the egg is a Balut, a delicacy in Vietnam and the Philippines, AKA a fertilized egg. "Don't think of it as a duck embryo," says the older woman once she realizes we're not about to try to hatch it or sue her. "Just swallow it."
We bought one chicken egg and a larger duck egg then headed to the kitchen to boil them as directed for twenty minutes. The chicken egg was probably incubated for less than fifteen days as it yielded something reminiscent of a tumorous brain. The hard boiled yolk had a strong liverish taste and veins like a varicose soccer mom's leg. The duck egg was more satisfying. On cracking the top of the shell we broke the amniotic sac and found a little itty bitty duck coiled inside. We sprinkled it with salt and drank the juice. It tasted like a mix between liver soup and condensed hard boiled egg. Then we peeled the egg and got the embryo out with its little head and wings, along with the streaked yolk and a pebble of cartilaginous white. Our duck Balut had most likely been hatched closer to the Filipino-favored eighten days than the Vietnamese twentyone days since it had no feathers.
The mix of textures between the tender meat, the soft bones and creamy yolk squarely overpowered our senses. Its gaminess echoed in our head and flavored everything else we ate for the rest of the day.
Here Balut is the stuff of Fear Factor challenges. In the Philippines Balut is a delicious evening snack, a strong aphrodisiac and even a fantastic business opportunity. And as the woman at the farmer's market explained when we asked her to compare it to an American snack, "It's like a burger, and you drink the liquid inside it's like your Pepsi." Well, as close to a Pepsi as amniotic fluid can be.
A dozen eggs for $7 served as an appetizer should make for a lively family dinner whether your parents label themselves pro-life or pro-choice.