Boiled duck embryo
It has taken a year for me to get brave enough to try the Vietnamese specialty of hot vit lon (hot veet lone), also known as balut or boiled duck embryo. The thought of eating a partially developed egg had never seemed particularly appealing to me but, after some prodding from friends, I finally took the plunge and tried this roadside delicacy.
When I got my egg, placed cutely atop an egg holder and served with a dish of lime and salt, I received very particular orders on how to eat it. Your first step is to take your spoon and hit the top of the egg, cracking the shell, which you will then peel back, making a small hole in the top. Once you have the hole in the top you get to drink the juice. In my particular case, the egg was extremely hot; it was too hot for me to touch. So, instead of sipping it like a cup of tea, I drank it with a straw, which was apparently hilarious. After you drink the juice, which tastes like hard-boiled egg juice, you make the hole bigger so you spoon out the insides.
The inside of the egg is probably the most unsettling part of the experience because the embryo is pretty developed. It looks a little like a chick, with a head, legs and bones, but it is still tender to eat. It is tender enough to break apart with your spoon; so you can take small bites that you won’t be able to recognise.
Carts that sell hot vit lon are usually low key with little in the way of signage or display. The eggs are usually kept in a steamer but some will be on display or at least out in the open. Streetside vendors that sell shellfish will usually keep a healthy supply of eggs on hand and most markets have someone who sells them — you just might have to ask your drink lady.
They don’t taste bad — I didn’t think they were much different than a regular hard-boiled egg — but I’m not sure it’s something I’m going to start having on a daily basis. That being said, if I do say so myself I did look pretty cool and super brave when I finished my hot vit lon in front of my less brave friends. So, if you’re super brave like me, find yourself a cart and give it a try!
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 18th October, 2014.