Believe it or not, in certain parts of the world, it's a
custom to eat soft-boiled eggs containing partially developed duck
embryos. Filipinos call them "balut." Here at Fear Factor we simply call them gross.
We knew that balut - also known as the "treat with feet" and
the "eggs with legs" - would make for a great Fear Factor stunt. But the
trick was in finding out where to get a hold of some here in Los Angeles.
With the help of some duck farmers, we tracked down a balut
supplier in a part of town known as Little Vietnam. It's a relatively
small business that prepares thousands of duck eggs daily for sale to medical
research labs and to Asian Americans hungry for a taste from home.
Some of these balut eggs are sold at weekend street fairs in
L.A., where Vietnamese transplants can be found chowing them down with
the help of some salt, pepper, and a couple of beers. Of course, we had no
intention of serving our balut eggs with any salt, pepper or beer. We
wouldn't want anything to spoil the taste now, would we?
The balut supplier showed us how he prepares the eggs for
18 days and then sends them on to food stores in the area. When we finished
the tour, we hopped in the car and made a beeline to some of those
stores. After all, we figured any place that carried balut probably had plenty of
other gross food items in stock.
For the uninitiated, a trip to one of these stores can be a
strange experience. The meat counter is packed with a dizzying array
of animal guts. Even the candy aisle is filled with weird stuff like Banh
Men, which are chalky, larvae-shaped coconut cookies that taste, well,
horrible. Let's just say we left Little Vietnam with a bunch of balut eggs and a
couple of ideas for some future stunts.
We brought the balut eggs to our Fear Factor kitchen and started boiling
some test eggs at various cooking times. Fortunately, we were able to find a
couple of volunteers in the office who were willing to give them a try. Let
me tell you, they were not happy campers by the time they were through.
Nothing quite braces you for the first time you crack open a
balut egg. As you dig into the yolky mess, you discover a miniature duck
inside, complete with feathers and a beak! Adding to the horror is a terrible
smell that works its way into your nostrils and just won't let go.
For the taste testers in our office, the worst part of the
whole balut-eating experience was the crunching sensation they
felt as they chomped through the embryo. Not surprisingly, it's the very
same complaint we heard from our contestants. Oh, and one contestant
complained of feeling a little eyeball slide down his throat.
"If they came and offered me the $50,000 right now to just
eat one more, there is no way I would do it again," said one contestant
after downing two of these suckers. "There is no way."