Is eating a Vietnamese balut such a nightmare?

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Yes, it is! Balut in Vietnam (Hột vịt lộn or Trứng vịt lộn) is obviously one of the most favorite dishes of Vietnamese people while it is a real nightmare to eat for international friends. Curious what is a balut and why is it so terrible? Here is the answer.

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Food is a vital part of the culture in each country and reflects uniqueness from one to the others. There are some dishes that are favorite ones to some certain countries but a nightmare to the rest of the world.

Balut (duck fetus) in Vietnam is a typical example.

What is a balut?

Balut in Vietnam
A boiled balut with the broken shell from the top

If this is the first time you have heard about balut, I would say it’s normal.

Because this food is famous in Vietnam and some countries in Asia such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China and the Philippines, but not in Western.

But if you are here, so now you know!

Balut is a fertilized developing egg embryo (normally duck eggs). Depending on different preferences, it will be incubated for a period of 14 to 21 days. Then, it’s ready to be served.

Let’s have a close look at the balut picture above. You can see 2 main parts in this special egg: the yellow is the yolk and the mix of black and white is the baby duck part. 

An interesting fact is that the balut egg is considered one of the favorite food in Vietnam but being ranked as one of the most horror dishes in the world. Why?

 Keep reading and you will find the answer shortly 🙂

How to cook balut eggs?

Stir-fried balut with tamarind sauce
Stir-fried balut with tamarind sauce

After getting incubated for 2 to 3 weeks, a balut is cooked in some different ways but the most popular one is boiling. Personally, I like to eat balut in this way of cooking as it’s simple and can keep the original taste.

The recipe is very simple. It’s just like we boil a normal egg but there are some tips you should have in mind:

  • Put this special egg when the water is still cold. Otherwise, balut will be broken. Accordingly, it will lose its delicious soup and special taste.
  • Water should be twice the height of the egg.
  • Cook it for at least around 20 to 30 minutes since the water boiled. A soft-boiled egg is not a term for balut. It needs to be well-cooked. Otherwise, your stomach might need some medicine to save it up.
  • Put some salt into the boiled water to make the balut taste better.


Well you see, it’s a piece of cake to cook balut. In fact, apart from boiling, we also stir fry balut with tamarind sauce, mix it with some gourd, or put it into a hot pot dish. All taste delicious!

How to eat baluts properly?

Eating an egg is not a big deal. However, to enjoy a balut “in peace”, you need to know how to do it.

The Vietnamese rarely eat balut as a main course but mainly as junk food or as an ingredient for another dish such as hot pot or noodle soup.

As mentioned above, boiling is the most common way that the Vietnamese cook and enjoy a balut. Therefore, I will share with you how to eat a boiled balut as a local.

Like eating a normal egg, we just simply pill out the shell and enjoy it. However, as balut is a different egg which contains a baby duck inside, you should know how to eat it properly.

Actually, there are different ways to eat a boiled balut. You can firstly take off the shell, put the whole egg into a small bowl and eat it. This is how people in the North of Vietnam enjoy this special duck eggs.

However, this way is a bit too much for beginners as you will see the whole duck fetus exposed in front of you. Someone also separates the duckling part and the yellow part to eat. Imagine to put the whole body of a baby duck in your mouth?

You are picturing it? Well please keep your face in a good shape and continue reading 🙂

If it is your first time eating balut, you should follow another way. Otherwise, you may not finish the challenge.

Below is the better way to eat a boiled balut:

  1. Put a balut in a small cup
  2. Break it from the bigger top (this step is important because if you break the other side, it’s complicated to continue eating)
  3. Carefully take off the broken pieces of the shell, enjoy the soup first. With me, this soup is the best part of the meal.
  4. Use a small spoon, scoop each spoon of balut and eat it with Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), some ginger, and a sauce made of salt, black pepper, and lemon.
  5. Don’t focus too much on detail, just enjoy the flavor as the other food.

If you have a chance to eat balut, don’t forget this guide. It will help you a lot to enjoy this specialty of Vietnam.

Bon appetit!

Is a balut rich in nutrient?

Yes, it is! Balut is not only tasty but also contains rich nutrients that are good for our health.

According to some documents, a balut (duck egg) has around 14 grams of crude protein, 188 calories, and around 82 – 100 milligrams of calcium, and some vitamins.

That could be the reason why my parents fed me with balut since I was a child. I love it and so do many of my friends.

However, there is around 600 mg of cholesterol in one balut. So pay attention to this! Don’t torture your stomach and your health with a lot of these special eggs at the same time.

Where to eat baluts in Vietnam?

A street food vendor sells balut in Vietnam
A street food vendor sells balut in Vietnam - Source:

Vietnamese people eat balut everywhere they can. It can be in a restaurant, sometimes in a family meal. The most popular place is open streets or pavement or random corners because balut is street food.

If you have a tour to Saigon or other cities in Vietnam by night, you can see many street vendors selling food on the sidewalk. Balut is one of the common meals that is often on the top of the menu.

Don’t forget to stop by and try one. One balut costs you just VND 7.000 – VND 10.000. With 1 euro, you can eat around 3 baluts. It’s really cheap! 

Why do Vietnamese people love to eat baluts?

Baluts in Vietnam
Baluts in Vietnam

The Vietnamese are big fans of balut as it’s very yummy. From the soup to the content inside the shell, all are delicious.

Especially when we eat it with a combo of some Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), some ginger, and a sauce made of salt pepper lemon, the flavor deserves a chef kiss.

Besides, a balut contains rich nutrients and is considered to be good for health. So it’s no surprise that this is one of the delicacies of Vietnamese people.


In Vietnamese, we call balut as Trứng Vịt Lộn or Hột Vịt Lộn (literally translated upside-down duck eggs).

That’s why when some troubles happen, some people in Vietnam decide to eat balut eggs in odd quantities (1-3-5-7-9…) to release bad luck. As its name means “upside-down duck eggs”, it can reverse the current bad luck into good luck.

We don’t know if it would help, but we keep doing it. Anyway, if the situation doesn’t get better, we have a good meal 🙂

Why is balut a nightmare to eat for international friends?

A balut egg's at a close-up
A balut egg's at a close-up

When I introduced balut to my international friends, a few of them almost vomited after putting this food in their mouths. They couldn’t bite it or swallow it. With them, balut is disgusting.

As a balut is a fertilized egg and gets incubated for two or three weeks, it already had the form of a baby duck underneath the shell.

This look makes many foreigners scary because when they eat it, they need to bite slowly the whole duck fetus from the head to the legs, bones, beaks, feathers, and all.

The whole experience is not easy for beginners at all. That’s why balut is ranked as one of the most horror dishes in the world.

However, there are still a few friends abroad who hesitated to try balut at first. But then they fell in love with it! 

Over to you

Balut is a favorite dish and is an integral part of the culinary culture of Vietnam and some countries in Asia. But for someone, it’s terrible, not only because how it looks but also in terms of ethical concerns.

Well, it’s difficult to say that eating a balut egg is right or wrong. It’s more about culture and the way we live with it. At the end of the day, it’s your choice of what you eat.

I hope that you learn something new about us and our food culture. Do you dare to try a Vietnamese balut? What do you think about this food?

Feel free to let me know your thoughts and don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions. Another article in the Vietnamese food series will be published soon. So, stay tuned!

If you would like to stay updated with the latest content, ensure to subscribe to the AMA Vietnam blog 🙂

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