I had a lot of reasons to visit Vietnam while traveling Southeast Asia, but one of the big ones was the food. I didn’t grow up eating Vietnamese food (in fact, I’m pretty sure there weren’t many restaurants in my area at the time), but when I eventually discovered it during university, I was hooked. I remember when I studied abroad in Sydney in 2006, I occasionally would grab a cheap (and spicy) banh mi sandwich from the restaurant down the street from my student housing. It was quick, filling and most important to a student, it was cheap.
When I arrived in Vietnam, I made food a definite priority.
Not that food hadn’t been in other countries (the Middle East, India and Thailand were also big food destinations for me), but it was just a big attraction for me. Vietnam has a bit of a reputation for eating…different…foods. And while I knew I’d want to eat dog meat while I was there, I was less certain about some of the other exotic foods. Snake? No thanks. Or so I thought.
I ended up eating a few exotic things, but missed out on the snake blood/cobra heart. I’m okay with that. One of the biggest surprised for me was when I ate balut egg—a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in its shell. It’s a popular snack in Vietnam. You’d see food carts all over selling them. People just sit down quickly on a stool, dip a small spoon into the egg, chow down and go. After avoiding it for weeks, I sat down with my cousin Tifo and he showed me how to eat one properly. Check out the video below of my first balut experience!
The video isn’t edited, but you’ll just have to deal. And to prove that I actually finished an entire balut egg, a photo of my victory:
I’m really glad I tried it because it actually was incredibly tasty. It was a little hard to take that first bite, and then once more when I came across what was clearly the beginning stage of a duckling (thankfully without the feathers). But in the end it wasn’t so hard. And like I said…it was good!