Foreign travelers have a sort of love-hate relationship with “trung vit lon” which is known as the Vietnamese version of the famous “balut” egg in Philippines.
You can literally find this food in every city across the country. Vietnamese people eat “trung vit lon” for breakfast and night snack. It’s loved and very popular for its savory taste and rich nutrition.
What are half-hatched eggs?
Half-hatched eggs are fertilized eggs (usually a duck) that are incubated for about 14 to 21 days. The eggs can be cooked either by boiling, steaming or stir-frying with sauce.
Eggs hatched for a longer time have almost developed embryo. You can see clearly at the boiled egg the feather and the mere shape of the baby duck.
Taste depends on the breed of duck. In Philippines, Mallard duck are used extensively for the production of balut while eggs from Muscovy ducks are considered the best.
Vietnamese people also half-hatch chicken eggs and quail eggs. The latter is just as popular as half-hatched duck eggs; the dish “stir-fired half-hatched quail eggs with tamarind sauce” gets recognized as one of the delicacies.
Why half-hatched eggs
You can say everything you want about half-hatched egg but you can’t deny its very delicious taste. Many countries have this dish including Vietnam, China Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thai, Malaysia and Indonesia. We can say that Southeast Asian countries love half-hatched duck eggs, especially Philippines.
However, each country has different way of cooking and eating this dish. In Phillipines, balut is younger (17-day-old) then eaten with salt, chili, garlic and vinegar all mixed together. Vietnamese half-hatched eggs are older, mostly 19-21 days. They often eat boiled half-hatched with salt and rau ram (Polygonum odoratum, Vietnamese coriander). This herb offers heat to balance the coldness of egg, one example to the yin-yang philosophy in Vietnamese cuisine.
In each region in Vietnam “trung vit lon” is eaten quite differently. Hanoians eat this dish for breakfast. The boiled egg will be put in a small bowl. You use the spoon to tap on the egg, remove the shell and sip the liquid first. Add some salt, pepper and rau ram to the solids then eat.
In the south, people eat “hot vit lon” (the name of “trung vit lon” in the south) for night snack, after dinner. The egg will be put on a small cup erectly. Only the top part of the shell will be removed. The eater adds salt, rau ram and eat the contents inside the egg like a person eat ice cream in a cup.
In the central, more sauce and spices will be added to reduce the egg smell and coldness.
There are two parts of the contents inside of one “half-hatched duck egg”: the white part (which is duck embryo) and the yellow one (the yolk). If you can’t eat the white part for whatever reason, you still can taste the yolk just fine.
Half-hatched egg is very nutritious. Each egg has about 190 calories and offers 14 grams of protein, B-carotene, calcium and other good stuff. It’s good for blood and for a long time used as sex stimulant in Philippines. In Vietnam, other than yin-yang completion, rau ram is also used to balance out this sex stimulant impact of the egg.
Folks who want to gain weight healthily should also befriend with “trung vit lon”.
This dish is also very cheap and sold everywhere in Vietnam.
Why NOT half-hatched eggs
Having tons of goodness might not be really a good thing. Although half-hatched duck eggs are very nutritious, eating too many of these can harm your health in the long run such as increasing blood’s cholesterol, affecting your bone formation because of too much vitamin A. A healthy adult should only eat two half-hatched duck eggs for one week.
Children under 5 are not recommended eating “trung vit lon” because their digestive system is still weak, eating “trung vit lon” can cause stomachache or digestive disorder. Children above 5 should only eat half of an egg each time, one or two times a week.
Pregnant women should be cautious when eating this dish. Half-hatched eggs are nutritious and good for the baby but rau ram isn’t. Do not eat this dish everyday.
With the elderly, eating too many “trung vit lon” can cause heart attack and other health harms.
Eating half-hatched receives a soft kind of discrimination from westerners, much softer than the eating of dogs. The eating of half-hatched duck eggs is controversial due to religious, animal welfare and human health concerns:
- On religion: Muslims believe eating a partly-developed embryo is “forbidden”. According to Quran, a law cited that any animal products should not be eaten if the animal has not been slaughtered properly.
- On animal welfare: in UK, embryonic birds are “protected animals” once they have reached the last third of their incubation period. Australia similarly stands against boiling the duck embryo from the 18th day of incubation onward. There are number of groups raised voice opposing the eating of half-hatched eggs as well.
- On health: Canada has labeled the food as “hazardous food” for the reason that the temperatures and environments for half-hatched eggs to grow are ideal for bacteria.
Where to find half-hatched eggs
In Vietnam, they are mostly sold in street, night markets. The vendors, food stalls and family restaurants selling breakfast foods also offer boiled half-hatched eggs. In the south, “hot vit lon” is eaten as a night snack. You can buy half-hatched eggs at the market and cook them yourself. However, it’s really hard to know their age without asking the seller.
In USA, California has many places you can go and buy half-hatched eggs like Friday Oakland or Little Saigon. Vietnamese stores and markets are also worth your try.