Eating pong tia koon – Cambodian balut!

duck-embryo

Pong tia koon is the Cambodian version of balut. It’s simply a fertilized duck embryo which adds a lot to the eww factor for a lot of people. We were in Siem Reap and saw a street vendor selling it – that’s the only way to eat pong tia koon! :)

eating balut cambodia

I’ve eaten balut in the Philippines before. On the streets of Manila, eating fertilized duck embryo is just a simple matter – you crack open the balut, suck out the juices and get a twist of salt to go with the egg. It’s just that simple.

cambodian balut

However, the process of eating pong tia koon is quite complex in Cambodia. Cambodians have a wide variety of condiments to add to the fertilized duck embryo before it’s ready to eat. There’s almost a ritualized feel to it. It’s balut, Khmer style! smirk

eating pong tia koon

The egg is cracked into a plate, with the embryo and juices flowing freely. Fine salt and black pepper powder is added to it. Fresh lime is cut while a mixture of garlic slices and chilli is liberally poured into the plate and Cambodian mint (laksa leaves) sprinkled before it’s suitable to be served.

cambodia balut

It’s delicious! I found the Khmer style of serving balut to be extremely tasty! I ordered 3 pong tia koon and it left me wanting more. It’s just 1,000 KHR (0.25 USD) per egg. The mixture of spices goes very well with the egg and also the tiny duck inside. I told Ling it just tastes like chicken soup and got her to eat some so she’s experienced eating balut before. :)

pong tia koon

The Cambodian pong tia koon is a lot more intense in some ways than balut in the Philippines – they keep the duck longer (19 days compared to 17 days) so you can see a mature chick inside. It’s fully recognizable as a baby duck!

balut developed chick

There’s a head staring back at you with huge eyes, a long neck, webbed feet. You can even see the rib cage of the baby duck! It’s delicious though – the sweet, sour and spicy condiments make this a truly delicious dish that you’ll crave for instead of something to eat just to experience. :)

Eating balut in the Philippines

balut egg

Balut is perhaps the Philippines most notorious street food. It’s an duck egg that’s intentionally unpasteurized to create a fertilized embryo inside it. You can get a near fully formed chick if you’re lucky – complete with beak, feathers and other features you’ll normally associate with a duck.

Well, a duck to be anyway, since it’s been boiled, it’s never going to hatch. ;)

balut duck egg embryo

Balut is also known for it’s eww factor with an almost ridiculous aversion bordering on stereotypical squeamishness.

I think there was a Fear Factor episode where the final contestants backed out from eating it. I honestly don’t get what all the fuss is all about – it’s just an egg…with a duck as a bonus. Heh.

cooking balut

I managed to get one that has a relatively intact and grown chick inside, complete with a beak and feathers. I reckon that’s the best kind – crunchy and well, feathery. smirk

balut duck embryo

The balut is kept in local cardboard insulated wood buckets and wrapped in layers of cloth to keep them warm – it’s quite nasty if you eat it cold coz part of the goodness of balut is the broth that comes out of the egg.

balut salt

The street venders sell it with a twist of salt in a conical newspaper wrapping – I got 2 balut eggs for 50 pesos (about RM 4). You’re supposed to eat it by cracking open the top of the balut egg, adding salt and slurping out the delicious juices before eating it.

I ate the first one without salt to get a more unadulterated experience and the second one with salt on the advice of the vendor. I preferred eating it without salt, the soup tastes almost exactly like chicken broth, and the half formed duck added a bit of texture and crunchiness to it.

balut

You can see the juices from the balut dripping down my hand in this photo. I’ve eaten balut before, it should have no offensive odors despite a lot of reports claiming otherwise – this is confirmed by a Pinoy friend of mine, who first introduced me to it by bringing it all the way from Manila to Sibu, causing a three day delay before I ate it. Heh.

Here’s a video of me eating it in a hurry (it was a high traffic area) and the associated local bystanders watching with interest and asking if I liked it.

There are a lot of myths associated with balut with claims such as improving male vitality and potency. That will put Pfizer and GSK out of business if it were true. ;) Similar claims have been made on dog meat, snake blood and bull’s penis. I am inclined to disregard all those and just eat it for the experience and taste.

eating balut

How does balut taste like? Well it just tastes like a regular boiled egg, except balut has a rich duck broth and a crunchy texture where the half formed chick resides. Xinxian agreed and added that it felt like she was eating egg shells.

I highly recommend that you try balut if you’re ever in the Philippines – it’s delicious in its own way and it’s one of those things that you have to try when you’re there. :)

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