We went to the Chinese supermarket again last weekend (you know the one, where it is possible to get all sorts of exciting produce like this). Sitting in the refrigerator section, along with the wonderful fruit and veg and huge bunches of Thai basil, was a selection of eggs.
As well as white hens’ and duck eggs were some slightly more unusual ova including Chinese century eggs and balut. I’ve never even seen balut before, let alone tasted it but have heard quite a lot about this notorious snack, which is a phenomenally popular streetfood in many parts of Asia.
Balut consists of a fertilised duck or hen egg, incubated for about two weeks and then boiled. It is eaten in the shell, usually with a pinch of salt and washed down with a cool beer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like eggs. A fried egg on toast is one of the finest meals it is possible to have. And I like chicken. But the thought of mixing the two together and creating a bizarre hybrid snack scares me a little. In fact, it scares me a lot.
I like to think that I am a relatively adventurous eater. I will happily eat a meat and potato pie, but crunching through a chick embryo; feathers, beak, head and all, might just be a step too far. Intrigued, I picked one up from the shelf, glanced over at my girlfriend who gave me that ‘you cannot be serious’ look, thought about it for a second and then placed it back with the rest of its partially feathered friends.
However, it got me thinking about foods I wouldn’t contemplate eating. There are very few things I do not like, but this is different. I cannot abide tinned tuna; even the smell of it makes me gag. I will never eat a bowl of cereal out of a box that has not had the bag rolled down to stop it from developing that horrible chewy sogginess. And as for kidney; anything that smells so strongly of wee does not belong on a plate, even if it is covered in gravy and pastry.
But there is a vast chasm of difference between something I know I don’t like and something that my cultural sensibilities have told me is repellent, which is quite ridiculous. With this in mind, I don’t think there is anything that I wouldn’t try, at least once, just to ensure that my instincts were right and I’m not missing out on some delicious Ambrosia (and I don’t mean custard). It is with such a spirit of adventure that I will travel to Thailand next week and, who knows, maybe even try balut.