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Journalist Sarah Efron explores strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best ethnic food

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eat a duck fetus out of a shell in St. James Town

***UPDATE AS OF JULY 2013: Pilipinas Restaurant is closed but there is another Filipino restaurant at the same address called Mahal Kita. It has a good hot food counter and yes...balut!

Think you’re okay about your decision to eat meat? A visit to the Filipino section of Toronto’s St. James Town might give you doubts. Here you can try a Filipino delicacy that will make you question your food morality.
Balut is a duck egg that is sold by all over the Philippines and in other Southeast Asian countries. “People go around and sell them on the street,” says owner Marissa Garcia, who hails from Bataan, a province near Manila. It’s a boiled, fertilized duck egg—basically a duck fetus—that you eat right out of the shell.

I recently ate balut ($1.99) at Pilipinas Cusine, a new variety store/take-out restaurant at 29 Howard St., a street in St. James Town that is lined with shops serving the Filipino community.

Balut is just one of the many strange foods I first encountered on a trip to the Philippines a few years ago. I sampled a skewer with three one-day-old deep fried chicks (crunchy), I ate dog meat and dog soup (very tasty but made me uneasy) and tried pinikpikan, a delicacy which involves beating a chicken to death slowly with a stick to change the texture of the meat (not good for so many reasons).


In Pilipinas Cusine, I sat at a small table inside the shop to eat my balut. I cracked open the top of the shell and slurped out the broth-like liquid. After breaking into the shell, I sprinkled salt on the yellow yolk, which was akin to a regular hard boiled egg, and the meaty duck part. You could see duckling’s little organs and blood vessels. The whole thing tastes undeniably good—hey, what’s not to like about broth, hard boiled egg and duck meat? But somehow, thinking about the little unborn duckling made me feel queasy.
 
“It’s better to eat it without looking,”  advised Marissa. “It’s like a baby bird. It’s better not to see it, just to eat it.” Very wise words, indeed.



Pilipinas Cusine is located at 29 Howard St., Toronto. Hours: 9am to 11pm, 7 days a week.

***UPDATE AS OF JULY 2013: Pilipinas Restaurant is closed but there is another Filipino restaurant at the same address called Mahal Kita. It has a good hot food counter and yes...balut!

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1 comment:

  1. well, it's better than eating factory farmed adult chickens that live in their own filth in tiny cages, and have their beaks cut off.. your typical north american poultry!

    ReplyDelete