Half-hatched eggs a.k.a. baby eggs a.k.a balut a.k.a. duck embryos are widely on offer here in Da Lat, the pleasant highland town in central Vietnam where my father and I arrived yesterday.
At my request, our guide, Phung, took us to a small, homely restaurant at the entrance of which sat enormous trays of shelled sea (lake?) creatures and one steaming cauldron of eggs. Phung ordered. Three large, warm eggs, accompanied by saucers of lime, chili-salt and herbs, appeared at our tiny plastic table. The proprietress neatly tapped open the shell of one egg with a spoon, exactly like my mother used to prepare a soft-boiled egg for toast-dipping.
I was told to sprinkle said egg with the chili salt, sip out the juices, then take a bite of the contents. Sort of like eating an oyster, with the sipping-eating order reversed.
Sipping wasn't half-bad. The egg liquour tasted like a thin, savory soup.
Then I shut my eyes and took a bite.
Not the best shot of this historic moment, but it will have to suffice.
The flavor of the egg? Quite nice. Like chicken with zesty spice.
The texture? Extremely challenging, clotted and clumpy. There were a lot of differentiated parts, and when I dared to look more closely, a lot of differentiated colors: gray, black, white, gold.
The concept? You don't need me to tell you that the concept, to a typical Westerner, is absolutely revolting and the egg, therefore, was inedible.
In the middle of this whole escapade I realized it was probably rude to go into a restaurant, order the specialty of the house, take pictures of oneself choking down a tiny morsel, pay, and depart. I don't approve! But the proprietress seemed more amused than irritated. I bet she's seen this before.