MANILA – The humble Filipino delicacy balut has been getting a lot of buzz in New York City, thanks to a restaurant called Maharlika.
The restaurant, owned by Filipino-American Nicole Ponseca, has been attracting more customers because of balut, a fertilized duck egg that is common street food in the Philippines, but is deemed strange or even disgusting in other parts of the world.
Eating the delicacy has been considered a “challenge” in reality shows such as “Fear Factor” and “Survivor.”
Just last week, Maharlika’s balut was featured in a video published by the US business and technology website Business Insider, with its staff having mixed reviews about it.
“While this looks like a normal hard-boiled egg, there’s more to it than meets the eye,” said Sydney Kramer, operations coordinator of Business Insider, as she held the egg before stepping inside Maharlika.
In the video, Ponseca explained that balut is “a great source of protein,” adding that “some say it’s an aphrodisiac.”
She went on to teach Kramer how to properly eat the delicacy – find the fat round side of the egg and crack the top, slurp the “juice,” and eat the yolk and the duck embryo.
“At the bottom part of the egg is the white, which you don’t usually eat. It has the texture of a pencil eraser,” Ponseca explained.
Kramer said she enjoyed eating the balut, describing the broth as “strong chicken stock” and the yolk as “like custard.”
She did not spare the duck embryo, too. “It tastes like chicken liver,” she said.
After trying it herself, Kramer brought some balut for her co-workers at Business Insider to try. But unlike her, they had mixed reactions.
Most of her female colleagues were turned off by the sight of the embryo, with most of them hesitant to eat it.
One of them even said: “I feel like I want to rinse my mouth now.”
But Kramer’s male colleagues were happy to try the delicacy.
“I think I swallowed it too fast,” one of them said, smiling.
Every year, Maharlika holds a balut eating contest in New York, with last year’s winner downing 18 eggs in five minutes.
This year’s balut eating contest, which was held last June 3, was attended by more than 200 people, according to a Facebook page for the event.
Halo-halo makes waves
It seems that Filipino food is slowly making a mark on the restaurant scene in New York. Before the balut, the icy dessert halo-halo recently got raves in the city for its unique flavors and textures.
Halo-halo, which literally means “mix-mix,” has been “taking over New York City” according to an article published in The Atlantic Wire.
Last June, the Filipino dessert was included in CNN’s list of “25 best foods for summer” to mark the start of the warm season in the US.
A few months before that, halo-halo was praised by well-known chef and travel host Anthony Bourdain when he tried it for an episode of “Parts Unknown,” which airs on CNN.
Pinoy food is next big thing?
Last year, “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern predicted that Filipino cuisine will be the next big thing among American diners.
In an interview with the website of the US morning show “Today,” Zimmern said: “I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months… I think that’s going to be the next big thing.”
“I want to go on record – this is not something that’s hot somewhere and will get hot everywhere else,” he said. “It’s just starting. I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass.”