Hello controversy: we tried balut egg at a Cambodian market

Balut egg is not for the faint of heart: but what is it exactly? And why is it so controversial? Let’s find out.

Balut egg is not for the faint of heart: but what is it exactly? And why is it so controversial? Let's find out.

Controversial foods.

Can you name a couple of them?

No, we are not talking about those avocados from Mexico or green asparagus flown in from Peru that increase your ecological footprint.

Or synthetically cultured meat.

Have you heard of balut egg before?

Perhaps another word some people would use to describe it is ‘unethical’ foods.

Foods that are not for the faint of heart and are often frowned upon.

However those foods in some countries are just part of the everyday diet and has been for generations if not centuries.

We were in Cambodia visiting a farmers market at a small village along the Mekong river. We talked to our guide about the famous Cambodian balut egg and she readily helped us find some to try out.

We already ate fried tarantulas in Cambodia, balut was next on our to try list.

Balut egg is not for the faint of heart: but what is it exactly? And why is it so controversial? Let's find out.

What is balut egg?

A balut egg is a fertilized bird egg.

You will mainly find balut duck eggs. Duck eggs are a bit larger than chicken eggs. The eggs are first incubated for 14 to 21 days to let the bird embryo develop.

The timing differs from country to country.

Some cooked balut eggs might just contain veins and developing darker areas. In other eggs you might truly find undeveloped feathers, bones and a beak.

Those will become soft when boiled.

Is balut food?

Yes, it is a popular street food snack and a staple in the Filipino and Cambodian diet. 

Are balut eggs alive?

It is an overall misconception that balut eggs are raw.

But no, the fertilised eggs are cooked or steamed first.

They are not served raw at all because it can contain harmful bacteria and make you very sick.

How to eat balut egg

You eat balut when it is still warm and freshly cooked or steamed.

Crack the top of the egg open with a teaspoon, season and eat it straight from the shell. It usually comes with pepper and salt or a lime juice and pepper dipping sauce.

Cooked and peeled balut eggs can also be added to stews and stir fries.

In some regions raw balut eggs are turned into omelets.

What does balut taste like?

It simply tastes like a soft boiled egg with a slight chicken flavor if you ask us.

Our balut egg wasn’t developed that much.

We didn’t see a clear embryo or tiny duck.

Black veins were showing in the egg white and certain areas were a darker shade of red and black and clearly in the process of development as you can see on our balut pictures.

Is balut safe to eat?

Yes, since the egg is cooked it is safe to eat.

Balut is also considered a healthy food to eat because it is very nutritious. Balut contains lots of protein and calcium. In some regions balut eggs are even believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Balut in the Phillipines and Cambodia

You will come across balut in the Philippines and Cambodia where it is a very popular street food.

It is also known as a delicacy in other southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

These local kids at the market were definitely interested in seeing us taste balut!

How much does balut cost?

At that Cambodian farmers market the price for a balut egg was about €0,10 and that was 6 years ago.

Is a penoy egg the same as balut?

Filipino penoy eggs are unfertilised duck eggs that are incubated together with the fertilised eggs.

It results in the egg white and yolk becoming one yellow mass. Once cooked, penoy eggs can be either creamy and scrambled in texture or have the consistency of a hard boiled egg.

Are century eggs the same as balut eggs?

No, century eggs are unfertilised preserved eggs. After weeks and months of preserving century eggs become almost black.

How about you?

Have you tried a balut egg before?

Would you try it if you had the chance?

Or do you think it is cruel to eat balut eggs?

Let us know in the comments below!

We’d love to hear from you.

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Ken Clark
Ken Clark

Had to comment on this. Since Sami and I have been together, we have eaten our way through a dozen countries. I will try anything as street food is my way of enjoying any new place. Sami, having grown up a devout Buddhist is sometimes uncomfortable with what I eat. (Knowing that she married a street food junkie, she is always a good sport.) This was one of the foods she frowned upon. It is indeed an acquired taste as are many Asian foods, and those I ate in the markets in Saigon were a little different than those I enjoyed in Cambodia. I did find it a bit humorous that she was less appalled with the tarantulas I ate in Phnom Penh. LOL.

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