By the time we got to the balut man on the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue we’d trekked across two continents and eaten through four countries all without ever leaving the shadow of the 7 train. “No holds barred means balut,” I tweeted to my pal Elyse Pasquale, aka Foodie International, the impetus for this impromptu Queens food tour, several hours earlier. I am not sure of the balut vendor’s hours so I was quite glad he was there. I hate to disappoint a lady, especially when fertilized Filipino duck eggs are involved.The balut dealer sets up outside Krystal’s so the plan was to score some eggs and head into the café and get some coffee and pastry and eat our balut on the sly. After handing over four bucks for three of the Filipino treats we headed inside. Panic set in momentarily. The tiny dining room was packed. “You can eat upstairs,” a friendly busboy said, “but it’s kind of noisy because there is a party.”
Before heading upstairs we grabbed a big puto ($4) and some coffees. As Elyse picked one up a Filipino lady told us that she eats the rice flour cakes for good luck in the new year. And so Elyse, myself, and her friend Suze headed upstairs for one of the more delightful cultural experiences I’ve had in sometime: Crashing an infant’s karaoke birthday party. Just as a guy dressed as a king in a red hat and cape was holding up the birthday girl, we snuck into the restaurant’s a la carte section and got ready to eat our balut. Elyse took out her egg and held between her palms as if waiting for it to hatch.
Yesterday was my fourth time eating balut. Several years ago Michael Bao introduced me to it at the now defunct Bia Garden. I could clearly see and crunch through the bones and beak of what was practically a fledgling. Apart from the clear impression that I was eating a fetus, it was actually quite tasty. That said I was nervous about eating this balut. After all this was the good shit, from an actual Filipino balut dealer.
I cracked it open and slurped the savory rich liquor. When the egg popped out of the shell it looked pretty gnarly. Atop what little white there was sat a massive yolk. And atop that a teeny-tiny grayish baby duck. I have a pretty strong stomach, but I’m pretty sure I averted my eyes from the little guy. And so with a someone belting out “I Will Survive” in the background we dug into our respective balut. And survive I did. It was creamy and delicious, like the richest, yolkiest egg ever. Call me crazy, but I can hardly wait to have another one.
Balut Man/Krystal’s Cafe, 69-02 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, 718-898-1900