Balut Eggs and the Vietnamese Ways of Eating Them
For a long time, balut eggs have been considered one of the unique dishes in Eastern cuisine. With their somewhat “frightening” appearance, balut eggs have often been listed among the scariest foods on the planet, making Westerners hesitant and fearful. Although they are popular and familiar to the Vietnamese people, there are a few things you may not know about this dish. Let’s explore them with me!
Balut eggs are made from partially developed duck embryos. They are typically enjoyed with accompanying spices such as Vietnamese coriander, salt, and pepper, especially when they are still piping hot after being boiled. The combination creates a delicious taste that will leave you wanting more.
Different Regional Ways of Eating
With a nutritious and popular dish like balut eggs, each region has its own unique way of enjoying it. It’s fascinating to see how creative we Vietnamese are even in the way we eat, and each method is equally intriguing. Which way do you prefer?
In the Northern region, balut eggs are often sold in the morning. People usually crack the eggs into a small bowl for consumption. Then, they add some ginger slices, Vietnamese coriander, soup powder, or a pinch of salt, chili, and squeeze a bit of kumquat juice before eating it with a spoon. Additionally, people from the Northern region often put balut eggs into hotpot to enhance the richness and sweetness of the broth.
In the Central region, particularly in Hue, people have a unique way of eating balut without using a bowl: they crack one end of the egg to create a small crack and then peel off a small portion with their hands. They then sip the liquid inside the egg to prevent any spills. Once the liquid is finished, they gradually peel off the shell, eating as they go, peeling it off in sync with their consumption.
In the Southern region, people typically eat balut using a small round porcelain cup resembling a tea cup. The egg is placed with the larger end facing upward and the smaller end facing downward, as the larger end has an air pocket. When eating, a small spoon is used to tap and create a small hole on the egg, allowing for gradual consumption. Salt and pepper can be added for flavor, and it is often enjoyed with Vietnamese coriander as a side dish.
Most of the balut stalls in Da Nang open after 7 PM in dimly lit street corners. It’s interesting to note that these stalls often use dim oil lamps, perhaps to reduce any eerie feelings associated with the appearance of balut.
Since childhood, I have been a big fan of balut. Back then, she could buy it from traveling vendors carrying baskets of balut, as announced every night. Despite the folk belief that one should not eat balut during exam period (FYI, Vietnamese grading system is from 0 to 10, so you don’t want your grades to resemble the eggs ^^), I confidently nourished myself with this dish before every test. The result was that whenever I ate balut, I would score a perfect 10 in my exams 😊. Even until now, I occasionally take my small family out for a late-night indulgence in balut. After years of experience, I have discovered a few noteworthy places that I’d like to share with you.
1. Balut Street
Address: Intersection of Ly Tu Trong and Le Loi Streets, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.
As dusk falls, balut vendors set up their stalls at the intersection of Ly Tu Trong and Le Loi Streets, becoming more bustling and crowded as the night progresses. Most of the stalls here serve delicious and aromatic balut, without being overwhelming.
2. Thai Phien Balut Stall
Address: Sidewalk at 73 Thai Phien Street, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.
With over 20 years of experience, this stall knows how to make their balut special. Their selection of spices, homemade ginger fish sauce, and pickled crunchy green papaya make their balut stand out. The locals eagerly flock to this place every night.
The balut here is neither too young nor too mature, striking the perfect balance that keeps you craving for more.
3. Be Ut Nguyen Cong Tru Stall
Address: Sidewalk at 264 Nguyen Cong Tru Street, Son Tra District, Da Nang.
This stall’s charm lies in its accompanying side dish of pickled young lotus stems and ginger fish sauce. The sweet and crunchy lotus stems combine with the tangy and slightly spicy ginger fish sauce, complemented by finely minced green chili. The combination is truly exquisite, with all the flavors harmoniously blending together.
4. Lanh Stall
Address: 23 Tran Ke Xuong Street, Hai Chau District, Da Nang.
This stall is always bustling, especially during the late hours when people come in and out to buy balut. I love this place because the balut is neither too young nor too old, and the broth is refreshing and sweet.
Additionally, they serve a delicious stir-fried balut with tamarind sauce that is absolutely delightful. The mildly sour tamarind flavor, paired with a rich dipping sauce and crispy bread, creates a perfect combination for a satisfying day.
I hope my recommendations give you a chance to explore and appreciate the simplicity and uniqueness of this Vietnamese dish. So, occasionally gather your friends and loved ones for a “refreshing” balut experience.