BALUT: DUCK EMBRYO
Balut is one food item that could make many Kiwis abruptly lose their appetites. But for Honey Rasalan, originally from the Philippines, it is one of her favourite snack foods.
"It's something I've been eating since I can remember, and I recall my mother would buy balut for me from street vendors in the Philippines," said Ms Rasalan, a co-ordinator at the Migrant Action Trust in Auckland.
Balut is a duck egg ... but one in which the embryonic duck is part-formed.
Lonely Planet describes balut as having a special place in the annals of weird food - and says that for the uninitiated, "fear and mystery" surround this popular Filipino street snack.
The eggs are sold at the Avondale market for $2 each or $16 for 10, and are also available at some Filipino grocery shops and Asian supermarkets.
Filipino men claim balut is a powerful aphrodisiac.
Ms Rasalan says the egg is best eaten boiled. A small opening is cracked into the shell, a pinch of salt is added and the amniotic fluid is sipped.
The rest of the shell is then removed, and the egg is eaten with salt, vinegar or chilli sauce.
The partially formed duckling is soft enough to be eaten whole, including the bones and beak.
"The taste is really good and not at all repulsive, sort of like chicken liver," Ms Rasalan said.
I really didn't want to know what I had got myself in for. I had no idea I would be eating a partially formed duckling. The egg was large, purple-ish, warm and freshly boiled when it was handed to me. "It's just a hard-boiled egg," I told myself, little knowing what lay inside.
We cracked it open and it looked just like a hard-boiled chicken egg. Relief flowed over me.
But then I was told I had to dig for the baby duck; the delicacy. There it lay, innocent, dark purple, feathered and reeking of strong egg.
The embryo was about the size of a tablespoon, and its legs and head hung over the edges of my teaspoon.
Its tiny, feathered wings were the size of a thumbnail. Not exactly appetising.
It took me minutes to pluck up the courage to eat it and I lost count of how many mental countdowns I made. Finally, with people egging me on, I did it. But the slime, skeleton and strong off-egg taste were too much. I spat it out instantly.
I did much better with the professionally prepared embryo, and even managed to chew and swallow.
I'll eat anything, as long as it's deep-fried, and this time was no different.
It was easy to pretend the two crumbed and deep-fried embryos were scotch eggs, resting on a nest of flaky pastry and pickled vegetables.
I don't think I would ever feel the urge to eat another "normal" embryo, but I would recommend the crumbed and fried version to anyone daring enough to try it.
But not the massive hard boiled embryo. I would never recommend that.