On the north side of the Scadding Court Community Centre are a series of converted shipping containers housing some interesting eats and I walk by every now and then to see what’s new. Recently, I discovered that currently in residence is Kanto by Tita Flips. Now, I’d first encountered Tita Flips as a vendor at a Toronto Underground Market event last year so it was interesting to run into this outpost downtown. There are well-designed signs that make up the menu – lechon, palabok, turon, tosi-log, and lumpia – but it was the hand-written note posted to the side that truly captured my attention.
Balut; a fertilized duck egg and one of the food items that make a lot of people squeamish. Even I had my misgivings about Balut – the thought of chomping down on feather and bone wasn’t very appealing. But at $2 an egg, how could I not try? While things were being prepped, I got helpful balut eating hints – crack the egg open at the top, suck up the juices, eat it with some salt. The auntie in the window handed me the egg and smiled encouragingly.
With trepidation, I started to peel the shell. The semi-translucent membrane masked a fine network of vessels that gave the egg white a look of cracked ceramic. Liquid sloshed out a bit, and I belatedly remembered I needed to drink the juices and captured the rest of the broth. Quite pleasant with a light taste of duck. Once I’d gotten the egg half-peeled, the moment of truth came: biting into the egg.
The preference in the Philippines is for a less-matured egg, which is ideal for a first balut experience. And later when I spoke to Diona, owner of Tita Flips, she told me that she specifically sourced 14-day eggs. So initial bites seemed more like eating a regular hard-boiled egg – that tasted like duck. The albumen was very firm – almost crunchy – and the texture was reminiscent of chicken tail cartilage. Somewhere in the middle we hit a pocket of duck liver-like stuff and only a hint of bone or feather; akin to hitting a stray scale when eating fish.
The experience was a lot more benign than the photos on wikipedia and what I had known about balut had led me to believe. In the end, I was less grossed-out than I thought I would be. Now that I’ve overcome the initial hump of the unknown, I would happily eat (a 14-day) balut egg again. A definite food adventure!