Eating the Gestated Duck Egg Called Balut at Umi Nom
Every cuisine has its odd passion, and Philippine has its balut. The word refers to the gestated egg of a chicken or duck, which has been incubated for 10 to 19 days, depending on how funky you want it to get inside. Eating it is not so much a snack as a surgical procedure.
Basically, the chick grows within the shell, developing such features as bones, a beak, neural tissue, and a skein of blood vessels during this period. After 21 days, the egg hatches, and your balut is ruined.
I've been told by Filipino friends that balut is a delicacy most enjoyed by children on their way home from school. In the '80s, during a period when hospitals like Beth Israel were actively recruiting nurses and doctors from the Philippines, there were several restaurants and at least three bodegas that specialized in groceries from the archipelago around the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street, and they all sold balut -- chicken eggs white, duck eggs colored purple, to distinguish them. The eggs were usually vended from straw baskets next to the cash register.
Nowadays, Balut is a little harder to find, and you may have to go to Woodside, Queens, where there are Pinoy (as Philippine-Americans like to call themselves) stores in abundance. I got my balut as a special at Umi Nom (433 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-789-8806), a small-plate pan-Asian place in Clinton Hill, just east of Pratt Institute.