We’re back in the supermarket today, and the palangke (wet market) and the road side, to talk about eggs.
Americans have an odd relationship with eggs, compared with the rest of the world. When a chicken exudes an egg, a natural, antibiotic coating is applied that will keep that egg fresh for ages, as long as it isn’t washed off. More Americans are coming to know this as the backyard chicken trend spreads, but it still doesn’t seem to be common knowledge quite yet, because in the US, the FDA requires eggs to be washed and have a super-smart, scientific coating applied. The problem is that the super-smart, scientific coating allows grocers to sell pretty eggs, but it doesn’t protect the egg nearly as well, which is why American eggs have to be refrigerated.
In other parts of the world, people just don’t wash the eggs until they are ready to use them. They last longer, and, coolest thing of all, they are shelf-stable and don’t require refrigeration. So, when you walk into a store looking for eggs in the Philippines, you’re going to be looking for something like this:
This is a-ok. You should still open up the carton and check for cracked eggs before you commit to a package. As in any place you happen to live, you shouldn’t buy cracked eggs, and if they crack before you can use them, throw them out. As you are checking your eggs, you may see a few of them have what appears to be chicken poop on them. That is because they have chicken poop on them. Again, they have not been washed. That doesn’t mean that that egg is deadly, though. It is fine. Take it home, put it in your fridge or on the counter, and before you cook the eggs, give them a little wash with soap and water. You are good to go.
Most supermarkets in the metro areas that I’ve been in have gone to selling their eggs in cartons, but there are still some in the provinces that sell them loose. Also, at the palangke, you will find them loose. So, depending on where you have to shop, you may want to hold on to what cartons you have and take them with you when you shop to carry your eggs home safely. You could also just take a piece of tupperware with a kitchen towel inside for cushioning.
If you have had your shelf-stable eggs for a while and are wondering if they are still good, you can put them in a container of water. If they float, then you have a choice. You can use it right away, or you can throw them out, because before the protective layer on the egg starts to allow bacteria in, it will start letting water out and air in. If it floats, it’s getting toward the end of it’s usability. And, as always, it’s best when cracking eggs to crack them one by one into a bowl before putting them in your frying pan or batter, because you really never can tell when you’re about to get a bad one. (For the record, I’ve never had a bad egg here, but I’ve had 4 or 5 in my 30-ish years of living in the US. It seems to just be one of those things that happens.)
Also, chickens here tend to be more free-range in the US. Even free-range eggs in the US are often “free-range”, meaning they have the option to go outside if they want to, but they tend not to because why leave the saftey and protection of the massive coop where the chicken feed and water is right there where you want it? Chickens here eat a more varied diet than American chickens. They are actually outside roaming about, and as a result have a much better diet of things chickens are supposed to eat, like bugs and worms and seeds. As a result, the yolks of the eggs tend to be a darker yellow or even orange. This is a good thing. It means your egg has more nutrition for you. There is no reason for concern. In fact, you should give a little cheer that you live in a place where you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for organic, free-range, backyard chicken eggs from the farmers market. You just go to the supermarket and buy them for the normal egg price.
But, enough with chicken eggs. There are several other egg options available to you here.
First, one of my daughters loves quail eggs. They are itty-bitty speckled eggs that I have seen everywhere chicken eggs are sold. They are great hard-boiled for snacking. I have seen them in various local dishes and on salad bars as well, but we mostly use them for snacks in our house.
Second, at the palangke and in many supermarkets you will see large, bright, purple-red eggs. These are actually salted duck eggs that have been dyed to help people tell them apart from the normal eggs. They have been soaked in brine, so the egg itself is salty, and then hard boiled. As far as I know, they are used for snacking, or are thrown in with ramen or other dishes.
Finally, there is balut.
Foreigners often get the same series of questions asked of them when they first meet a local.
“Where are you from?”
“When did you arrive?”
“Do you speak any Tagalog?”
“Have you tried balut?”
Balut is a street food, usually eaten in the dark, typically when drunk. Though I have been told that sober people like it, too, and I have seen people with small coolers on their hips walking around the streets in neighborhoods during the day, yelling, “Baaaaaaaluuuuuuuuuut!”
So, what is this balut? It is a hard boiled fertilized duck egg. Depending on how long it had been fertilized before being boiled, the embryo may still be tiny, or it may have some feathers starting to form. You are meant to crack the top of the egg and sip the part that is still liquid out, then peel the rest of the egg and eat the yolk and embryo.
I’ve heard it’s good. I’ve heard it tastes like chicken soup. I’m, personally, ok with just eating chicken soup.
Consumption of balut is seen as a badge of honor for a foreigner. It is presented as a way to claim status as a true Filipino. I don’t know how I feel about that, personally. I know plenty of Filipinos who haven’t had balut, or who had it once on a dare. So, don’t feel railroaded into trying it if it totally grosses you out. But, on the other hand, if you want to show that you are open to try new things, it will not kill you. The one evening I was feeling brave enough to try, we couldn’t find anyone selling them, so I have given myself a pass for now. But who knows? The daring streak may return some evening, and I’ll give it a go.