A new Filipino restaurant in New York's East Village has a very rare menu item, at least for this side of the Pacific Ocean: The brand new Maharlika is one of the very, very few restaurants in the United States to sell balut, the embryonic egg dish popular in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia but reviled pretty much everywhere else. The infamous delicacy involves a partially developed embryo, boiled whole inside the egg and eaten from the shell, beak, feet, and tiny bones included. It's something of a holy grail among Western food adventurers -- Andrew Zimmern ate one on Bizarre Foods in 2008, and Anthony Bourdain took the plunge in 2006. It even appeared on Fear Factor as a stunt.
But for those who want to eat balut stateside, be they Filipino transplants or adventurous locals, getting ahold of one has traditionally proved very difficult -- especially in a restaurant. Food message boards such as Chowhound routinely field questions on where to find them in one city or another. While the eggs are sometimes available at specialty supermarkets and farmers' markets for folks to take home and prepare, they're almost never on menus. In fact, a restaurant in Queens got a whole feature written about it in the New York Daily News because it had the eggs. If you search for "balut" on Menupages' New York site, today, you get just one result: Maharlika.
So what's it like to eat one of these things? Here, let Anthony Bourdain demonstrate: