Filipino Street Food Delights: Balut & Isaw

Street Food.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you read those two words?

Obviously the foods associated with this will differ depending on where in the world you are from, but for me, coming from a westernized culture, street food refers to hot dogs, kebabs and even hot jam donuts.

This view was very quickly tainted upon introduction to two Filipino street delicacies a few weeks back while in Manila. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?


In short, isaw is barbecued chicken or pig intestines skewered on a stick, in this instance, they were from a chicken. The intestines are rinsed, turned inside out and cleaned again with this whole process being repeated several times. Although a thorough cleaning process in ensued, Prof. Ma. Patricia V. Avanza, Ph.D. of the Food Science and Nutrition Department of the UP College of Home Economics in Diliman, Quezon City reveals that “there are those street vendors who do it well, but there are those who don’t.” That “bitter” taste that greets your mouth when you bite into the barbecued chicken intestines can be identified as “fecal matter” says Prof. Avanza.

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me want to throw up a little in my mouth. My stomach just wasn’t built for this kind of thing.

Here’s a video of my manager sampling isaw for the very first time at Mercato Centrale at Fort Bonifacio.


Balut is the kind of thing you see only in nightmares, the type where you wake up and try to scream for help only you’re out of breath and panting for air. It’s something that can make even the most rugged and manliest of men squirm and yelp like a small dog as evident in the video below.

But why?

Well, there’s no easy way to put this, but this delicacy is a fertilized boiled duck egg. That’s right, fertilized. This means that inside each egg is the fetus of a baby duck (typically anywhere between seventeen to twenty days in gestation) that has been boiled alive.

Please note that the images and video below are not for the faint-hearted.

Balut - Philippines

Filipinos believe the snack to be an aphrodisiac by giving you “strong knees” to make you outwit, outplay and outlast anyone in the bedroom. I’m not sure how true that claim is but from observation I can say that…

1. The thought of eating a boiled baby duck makes me go weak at the knees,  not strong
2. The thought of eating a boiled baby duck does not, in the slightest of ways, make me want to have sex

A tiny crack is placed in the shell and the broth that surrounds the duck is sipped from the egg before the shell is peeled off. Once the shell is removed in its entirety, both the yolk and duck may be consumed. A sprinkle of salt or chili mixture can be added to the balut to act as a seasoning.

Again, there was no way I was going to give this bad boy a shot, especially after seeing that our baby ducks had already started growing feathers on them! Again, I gladly let my manager take the reigns and represent – his reaction was priceless! If you listen carefully enough you can hear me dry retching in the background.


Have you ever eaten balut or isaw? Share your experience below…