They eat duck embryo called Balut in the Philippines, and it might be the only food I refused during my entire trip through Asia.
When I’m traveling, I always want to sample the local food, and I’ll try almost everything. What does that include? I’ve tried guinea pigs (cuy!) in Peru. I’ve eaten grasshoppers and scorpions in Thailand. I ate just about every organ or body party of a cow, duck, or chicken that you can think of in mainland China, including duck intestine, pig brain. Where do I draw the line? The Philippines’ Balut egg – duck fetus. Duck embryo is not for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to try eating a Fetal Duck Egg.
What is Balut?
Balut egg is a fertilized duck embryo – the embryo is allowed to grow and mature for about 17 days until it is quite clearly a baby duck. That’s right. A baby duck, with all its baby duck parts stuffed into a shell with the yolk and egg white, now crisscrossed with blood vessels and feather-like growths. Yes, sometimes it is even has the beginnings of feathers. At this point Balut egg is soft-boiled and eaten whole. Read more...(483 words, 2 images, estimated 1:56 mins reading time)
While the Philippines certainly aren’t known for their food, below are 7 Philippine cuisines that we enjoyed. I’ve listed my 7 top Pinoy dishes that stand out from my month in the country, and one that I absolutely would not try (it’s a duck fetus – scroll the bottom to see Bourdain eat it).
1. Halo-halo! – it’s #1 not for the taste but for the joy people get just saying the name. It might be impossible to pronounce it properly without smiling. I’m serious – I heard it spoken dozens of times in my month in the Philippines, and each time I’d see a wider smile than the last. I really wanted to like it! Despite the welcomed enthusiasm, I found it to be disappointingly not that tasty.
What’s in halo-halo? The name translates in english to “mix-mix” and it’s fitting. It’s always made of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and sugar, and then it appears to be whatever they have to throw in. Red beans, coconut gel, jackfruit, tapioca, corn flakes, jelly beans, yams, plantains caramelized in sugar…yeah throw it in!
You may remember Halo-halo! from Top Chef: Read more...(530 words, 10 images, estimated 2:07 mins reading time)
Eat with your hands in Asia for meals like the locals – but be prepared! There may not be napkins, or even soap. Here’s what you need to know to stay clean and safe when eating with your hands in Asia.
[squeemish warning – you may find this post to be disturbing, on par with the post on airline bacteria]
Paradox: The more likely a culture is to eat meals with their hands in Asia, the less likely to find napkins on the table… or even soap in the bathrooms. Disturbing!
Mailbag: After a few posts raving about the fun of choosing your own fresh fish at a market and eating street food, I’ve been asked a bunch of related questions about the quality of food, safety of eating street food, cleanliness of restaurants, and even if the “Three Seashells” method was used (best line from the movie, Demolition Man). This post is for you! So yes, after traveling around KL and all around Malaysian Borneo, I had to make a few mental adjustments and preparations.
Here are a few observations: Read more...(881 words, 4 images, estimated 3:31 mins reading time)
I definitely ate my way around Malaysia, especially KL and Kuching (in Sarawak, western Malaysian Borneo). I tried all kinds of new dishes – in Sarawak notable new dishes for me included Laksa, Manok pansoh, Kolok Mee, and more.
I loved their seafood markets – for one of they took over the roofdeck of a parking garage and turned it into a fish market, setting up a dozen mini-restaurant vendors like a food court in a mall. Fresh, cheap, and yummy!
To celebrate my first Chinese New Year in Asia, I left the jungle and headed to Kota Kinabalu (everyone calls it “KK”), the largest city in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo. I was really interested to see how people celebrate; apparently not enough to do any homework on what Chinese New Year actually is. Oops!
For those of you that are as ignorant as I was, it’s a family holiday, similar to the way Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. So there were no big parties with the irrational excitement of elaborate countdowns signifying the exact moment of the new year. Instead I found myself in a predominantly conservative Muslim country (read: doesn’t drink) in a city with 11 bars, on a night that’s least likely to have any energy at the bars. Hmm… Still it was a good time.
We ate at the night market with the locals (dinner for them, appetizer for us). Look at all of that goodness!
Afterward we ate our actual dinner along the beautiful waterfront where most of the bars are.