Edible Bird’s Nest Types: Red, Gold, White and Wild
If you’ve heard of bird’s nest soup, then you’ve probably seen photos of eager – and sometimes unsure – diners lifting to their mouth a spoonful of broth mixed with gelatinous nest fibers.
What you probably don’t know is that there are multiple types of bird’s nests that vary based on where they were harvested and what color they are. At Golden Nest, we sell four different types of nests: red, gold, white and wild.
Red Edible Bird’s Nests: The Legendary Delicacy
The rarest and most expensive bird’s nests are red, and rightly so. Their crimson coloration is breathtaking and creates an unmatched aesthetic for soups and desserts. While the rarity of these nests is undisputed, exactly why they’re red has long been a point of controversy and wonder.
There are those who believe the nests are red because the saliva of the swallow building a red nest is laced with blood. The bird bleeds, they say, because the bird’s mouth is worn out from building multiple nests over its lifetime. Others say the red bird's nests are produced when swallows consume lotus seeds, whose reddish hue mixes with the bird’s saliva.
Recently, scientists have put forth a more plausible explanation. They say that the nests turn red because moisture and oxygen in the air react with minerals the nest pulls from the rocks to which they cling. The result is a magnificent rust color.
These nests’ striking coloration demands a high price, making them the most sought-after edible bird’s nests on the market.
Gold Edible Bird’s Nests: Rare in Their Own Right
While red bird’s nests are the rarest of the four we sell, gold bird’s nests are also a prized ingredient for diners across the world. These nests account for 10% of the global bird’s nest supply, which makes them the second-rarest type of bird’s nest on the market.
The story behind the color of these nests is very similar to that of the red nests. They also extract minerals from the rocks around them, and those minerals interact with oxygen and humidity to produce an elegant gold color.
While they aren’t quite as stunning as the red nests, gold bird’s nests still add a tremendous color element to your dish.
White Edible Bird’s Nests: The Popular Choice
White nests are widely regarded as the “Caviar of the East” and are beloved for their unique taste. These nests are built in the same way that red and gold nests are built. However, the chemical reactions that make gold and red nests don’t take place with white nests.
While these nests may be white when they’re packaged, they undergo a change in color as they’re soaked during the prep process.
Instead of maintaining their white tint, they become translucent. While white nests may not have the color pop of their more expensive counterparts, their taste more than makes up for it.
Wild Edible Bird’s Nests: A Rare Type
The final type of nest is the wild bird’s nest. This type of nest contrasts the house nests we mentioned earlier. Wild nests are nests that swallows build on the walls of limestone caves throughout Indonesia and Asia. These wild nests are often the most prized – red wild nests are even rarer – and have been the source of secrecy in the industry.
Swallow caves are kept under lock and key by the harvesters who own rights to their caves, and rightly so; poachers are on the prowl at these natural-occurring habitats.
These nests also grow on the sides of cliffs; removing them can be a dangerous proposition. Over the past few years, intense harvesting in countries like Malaysia have greatly reduced swallow populations.
Golden Nest Edible Nests: Responsibly Sourced
Some companies will cut corners in bird’s nest production because they can demand such a high price for their nests. This leads them to use harmful chemicals to die white nests red.
Golden Nest has always prided itself in sourcing its nests from cruelty-free swallow houses, where workers take the utmost care in harvesting nests. Our nests are cleaned by hand with the utmost concern for hygiene and safety. We are also one of the few vendors in the United States authorized to sell wild bird’s nests.
Visit the Dry Nest section of our website to learn more about the types of edible bird’s nests we mentioned here.