March 3, 2011

Fried Balut (Kwek-Kwek, A Tacloban City Mini-Adventure)

This one would be a bit different from my past food blogs, as my subject or in this case subjects will not just be about food but also the City of Tacloban, or may be at least a part of it.

It all started with an IECEP (Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines) seminar  on Fire Alarms, Security Systems, and Automatic Identification Systems. I am an ECE student so I had to attend this. It was held at the conference hall near the Balyuan Tower used to be. To add up historical facts, the Balyuan Tower (which was now demolished) was used as a watch tower in the past to alarm the residents of dangers. Balyu, in Waray-Waray means trade. And Balyuan, is where you trade. It is called Balyuan because this was the place where the bigger statue of Sto. Niño in Basey, Samar was exchanged with the smaller Sto. Niño statue of Tacloban. For those who didn't know, Tacloban City in the province of Leyte used to be a fishing village of the Municipality of Basey in the Samar province. A festival is held here every year to celebrate that exchange. The statue is said to be miraculous.

The seminar ended around 3:45PM so we went out for air at a small dock at Balyuan fronting the sea to San Jose and a few miles away from Basey, Samar. The place which used to be an area for look out was eventually made into a tourist spot or a local park, with the Balyuan Amphitheater where concerts and gatherings are held. (Check out this blog for details of the Amphitheater:  

Locals who enjoy angling (fishing by hook) take their time  sitting or hanging out on the dock while they wait for fish to take their baits and reel in their catch. To my surprise, most of the anglers use banana as a  bait. I don't know if this was common or not, but to me this was a new one. As seen on the photo, the anglers just sit by the dock and wait - this would take minutes or even hours. 

The bay walk concept in Balyuan attracts Taclobanons (local way to call residents in Tacloban)  to chill out the place and feel the sea breeze. Students nearby flock the area after school to relax and just enjoy the scenic view. The twist however is the place gets a make-over when dusk strikes. Balyuan unveils her different side, the Night Life. Just as any city or town would be, there is this side where people break out from their shells and enjoy the company of friends and ALCOHOL. Barbecue stalls occupy a third of the place and turns Balyuan into a night life destination. These barbecue stalls not just serve barbecue but also beer - and a lot of it. Usually, group of friends gather and enjoy barbecue and beer but you can also see couples enjoying their time together. They share hours of laughter and fun with the slight or even heavy influence of alcohol, well to those who drink liquor anyway. 

So after we had air, we headed to the food stalls in front of Sto. Niño Church that faces the Rizal Park. Outside that park are food carts that sell a wide array of street food. From fried Isaw (tripe), pop corn, shakes, tempura, fish balls, buffies (pork internal organs and fats), and almost any food that involves sticks as medium for eating. 

But the cream of the crop in the area would be the Fried Balut. De-shelled fertilized duck or chicken egg and dipped in a special batter then fried. I didn't grew up eating this, actually I never loved it. I am terrified of it and I would run out of adjectives that would describe how much I dislike eating this Frankenstein contraption. I mean who would love eating duck fetus? There would be a few, but I'm not a part of them. My friends told me to eat one, because they did. So I readied my stomach. Cleared my mind - from my gruesome past of balut. Here it comes. There goes nothing. I'm gonna get myself through this. I thought of munching on the chick first so I would have bliss after that. I closed my eyes after seeing where I would take a bite and then munched on where the chick was. So after a few nibble, the chick was inside my mouth and here goes the inferno - well I thought it was. To my surprise the chick was so little I didn't feel the bones crack or anything, it actually tasted like chicken - because it was, but unborn.  Then I added more vinegar and salt after consuming the "gross" part. I finished the balut and so did my friends. 

We were about to get seconds, but the vendor told us that she only had one last balut and the others are Penoy which are only plain (unfertilized) duck or chicken eggs. They told me that I should have the Balut because it was my first time and should get myself to start loving it. I accepted the challenge, thinking that the experience would be the same. This time, I nibbled not on the chick first but on the yolk. I was confident that eating the chick was just easy like a balut ago - because I wasn't totally looking on the chick. I was surprised and well, shocked that it was almost in full shape - not like before, this one had already grown its beak. To escape embarrassment, I had to eat this because I had no choice. I would also disgrace the soul of this chicken or duck that I'd only be wasting its body, so I had to consume it. I closed my eyes again and munched on it. This time I felt bones and its beak breaking as I sink my teeth on the chick. My eyes got teary and got myself choking for a bit because I only thought of the disgust. Then I told myself, "It's mind over matter" so I chewed on the chick quickly so I could get through the taste of destruction - well to me it was. I finished the balut but got me into another bad balut experience. Well my motto for food that I don't like is "Keep eating it until you like it." So may be it wasn't my day to be a fan of it, but I'll keep on trying until I can call it my comfort food. 

After my horrific balut eating stint, I flushed it all down with mango shake that only cost five pesos which would be around 9 US cents. The reason behind this cheap price though is because it is too commercial and we may say - too much ice was put in. But yeah, it was enough to clear my tongue with the aftertaste of balut.

Tacloban City is a beautiful place, and if you were to look in the big picture - Tacloban is about to premiere as one of the most beautiful cities in the Philippines. Well in the future, if things go right. 

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regine said...

ahehe,..nice post miks,..marasa mn it fried balut one of my fave food,..tas in fairness yna ko la an info about hit balyuan,..hhmm,..two thumbs up,..

Mikko said...

Thanks Gine! Well we should know more about where we actually live right? But I've had a bad balut experience. :)

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