Update: 15:32 | 04/10/2022
A stall in Ho Chi Minh City sells over 3,000 duck egg embryos daily thanks to the owner's unique way of cooking and preparing.
Duck eggs with embryos is a Southeast Asian street food popular in the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is often known as balut, the term from the Philippines, while the Vietnamese name is "hot vit lon."
A plate of boiled duck embryos with Vietnamese coriander (L) and the version with tamarind sauce at a stall in HCMC.
In Saigon, one popular eatery is run by a woman named Van, who chooses eggs from ducks in the Mekong Delta's Vinh Long Province. This is a type of duck that only eats rice and grains so they produce large eggs with delicious and nutritious red yolks.
The dish is simple but also takes a lot of time because everything has to be prepared manually by the family. Every day, the whole family gets up at 4:30 a.m. to wash eggs, prepare salt and pepper, ground chili, tamarind sauce (for stir-fried version), pork rinds and fried purple onions. The eggs are put in a large pot after being washed. Fresh coconut water with a little bit of salt are used for boiling eggs to give it a hint of sweetness. The eggs are taken out and put in a hot steamer with crushed ginger when cooked.
"This way of cooking gives the eggs a great aroma," Van said.
Many diners are also impressed by the salt and pepper mixture that goes with the eggs. Van does not use fine salt packaged in the supermarkets, but grinds rock salt and white pepper. This way, the salt is not too salty and has a strong aroma of white pepper.
The signature salt and pepper mixture of Van's stall brings a special flavor to the balut.
When customers order, the owner will take the eggs straight out of the steamer to make sure they are still hot. Each guest will have an extra bowl of signature salt and pepper mixture, a little crushed chili and a fragrant squeeze of kumquat. The savory, sour, spicy taste of spices mixed with the richness of duck eggs and a little pungent taste of Vietnamese coriander (rau ram) make a delightful dish.
In addition to boiled baluts, Van also sells stir-fried duck eggs with tamarind sauce. The sauce is also made by the owner with her own recipe, has a rich taste, with an addition of pork rinds, fried purple onions and peanuts.
The price for one balut here is only VND7,000 ($0.29), while it's VND8,000 with tamarind sauce.
The shop, at the intersection of Ban Co and Nguyen Dinh Chieu Streets in District 3, opens from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., attracting a large number of customers every day. In addition to balut, the shop also sells stir-fried quail eggs with tamarind sauce.