The many faces of Vietnam's fetal duck eggs

By Giang Vu, Thanh Nien News

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A typical dish of "trung vit lon" in Hanoi, where the boiled eggs are served without their shells. Photo: Giang Vu A typical dish of "trung vit lon" in Hanoi, where the boiled eggs are served without their shells. Photo: Giang Vu

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Embryonic duck eggs are a popular street delicacy in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, where each part of the country has its own way of preparing it.
The snack is variously called “trung vit lon” or “hot vit lon,” and prepared in boiling water.
After that, diners in Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City all have their own way of eating it.
Hanoians usually remove the shell and eat the egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, laksa leaves and kumquat juice.
You rarely find a creepy furry duck fetus in the capitol, where folks prefer their embryos just a few days old.
Diners in Ho Chi Minh City, however, aren't shy about fetus-eating and typically scoop them right out of the shell.

A "trung vit lon" served in Ho Chi Minh City on a small ring so diners can eat it out of the shell. Photo: Giang Vu

The eggs are sometimes served on a ring to keep them upright and prevent finger burns.
Saigonners use a small spoon (possibly the smallest you'd find on a Vietnamese table) to make a hole in the top of the shell from which to suck the embryo.
In the central town of Hue, “trung vit lon” is sold by vendors who ply them from a bamboo shoulder poles.
The vendors boil the eggs at home, so by the time they reach the diners, they’re no longer burning hot. Then, they're wrapped up in cloth or rice husk to keep them warm.
Diners squat as they suck and eat the eggs with their bare hands. 

A Hue preparation of "trung vit lon" -- gourd soup. Photo: Giang Vu

People in each region also set their own “trung vit lon” timetable.
In Hanoi, it's a breakfast food that's sometimes served with a shot of rice wine.
In Hue, “trung vit lon” is only available from the evening until late at night.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's freewheeling street food Mecca, the egg is eaten 'round the clock.
While Hue's cooks occasionally toss them into a soup, Ho Chi Minh City spices up its hot vit lon by stir-frying them in tamarind, garlic or fish sauce.
Hot restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City recently started adding trung vit lon to their broths to punch them up.

"Trung vit lon" stir-fried with tamarind sauce is popular in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Giang Vu

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