In limestone caves on the coastlines of Southeast Asia, there exists a delicacy highly prized by traditional Chinese medicine and chefs–Edible Bird Nests. And the most important component of these bird nests is bird saliva. Collected from swallows, the bird saliva of these small animals contains amazing health benefits, making them highly prized. Now, Golden Nest has combined the wonderful benefits of bird saliva with modern innovation and sustainable sourcing.
The History of Edible Bird’s Nest
Historians believe the first consumption of bird saliva occurred during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Admiral Zhen He (鄭和), a Chinese explorer and naval commander, discovered the delicacy in Southeast Asia. When his sailors experienced heightened energy and health after consuming bird saliva, Admiral He returned to China with a collection of bird nests for the Chinese emperor.
Because of this imperial heritage, bird’s nests have traditionally been a delicacy reserved for the royal families and wealthy elite of China. Although this has slowly changed in recent decades due to more affordable options, such as bird saliva drinks and tonics designed for modern convenience and rising income levels.
Is Edible Bird's Nest Really Made from Bird Saliva?
Yes, edible bird nests come from a specific species of Southeast Asian birds known as swiftlets (or swallows) native to beach caves. These little birds use their own saliva to build their nests, forming firm, white cups on cave walls. These bird saliva nests harden rapidly when exposed to air and resemble a tightly woven hammock built from threads that can range from white, yellow to the highly prized luxurious red.
How Edible Bird’s Nests are Harvested
Throughout southeast Asia, countless rock formations are filled with swiftlet nests on the sides of limestone caves. The nests are usually located at the top of caves, forcing nest collectors to use long wooden ladders to reach the nests.
With the increase of globalization came an acceleration of demand. The result of all this demand has meant a decrease of authentic wild nests. To counter this, some farmers have created the urban swallow farm. These “farms” are multi-story concrete houses designed to attract swallows, who fly in and construct their nests in the buildings.
Golden Nest takes pride in only working with sustainable swallow farms, prioritizing cruelty-free farming practices that protect both the birds and local farmers. With the controlled environments of these sustainable farms, workers risk less injury compared to the perilous caves.
What Does Bird Saliva Taste Like?
Neophyte bird saliva consumers might be surprised to learn that such a unique and coveted ingredient has an incredibly neutral flavor. In fact, the most interesting taste aspect of edible bird’s nests is its texture, akin to soft jelly or gelatin.
Edible bird’s nests absorb the flavor of the ingredients they are cooked with. Cooks are free to make the nests either savory or sweet.
Popular savory renditions include adding crab, Chinese ham, ginger and other umami rich seafood flavors, all cooked into a delicious soup.
For something sweet, Chinese cooks add rock sugar and herbs to create a sweet and delicate dessert soup. Bird’s nest soups are most often served as a part of an elaborate banquet meal.
The Fantastic Health Benefits of Bird Saliva Nests
Without a distinct flavor, what makes bird’s nest soup so coveted and interesting? The answer is its unique health benefits.
Since its inception into the repertoire of Chinese cuisine, it has been embraced by traditional Chinese medicine for its powerful health benefits, possessing properties ranging from boosting virility to promoting cell growth. In recent years, several scientific studies have examined the health benefits of bird saliva.
Researchers have found the following health components in bird’s nests:
- Water-soluble protein
- Amino acids that promote growth and body development
- Hormones, such as testosterone
The main nutrient in edible bird’s nests is a water-soluble protein that stimulates cell division and muscle repair, two key components to healing. A typical bird’s nest contains large amounts of protein (45-55% by weight) and these proteins contain bioactive molecules that also boost the immune system, protecting the body against diseases.
A landmark study published in January 2016 successfully tracked the ability of edible bird’s nests to boost the immune system.
Researchers found that bird saliva and other components in swallow’s nests “effectively accelerates the proliferation and the antibody secretion of the cells.” In layman’s terms, bird saliva jump-starts a body’s ability to produce immune-system cells that fight disease, boosting overall body health.
The study also demonstrated how edible bird’s nests can rebalance the body after certain chemotherapy treatments. When patients undergo chemotherapy, good and bad cells are eliminated. Some of these good cells, “B cells”, are white blood cells that produce valuable antibodies, shielding the human body from disease. A scientific study by Chinese researchers positively identified the consumption of bird saliva as a recovery method for chemotherapy. Patients who ate edible bird’s nests were found to have decreased the negative effects of chemotherapy to their intestinal system.
Finding the Right Bird's Nests
Bird’s nests come in various grades and color – red, yellow, and white. The most prized and rare is red, known in Chinese as the “blood-red bird’s nest". A common misconception is that red bird’s nest is made from swiftlet blood. This is false. Bird’s nests turn “blood red” due to the bird’s diet containing more minerals and specific nutrients that turn the saliva red.
Known at the “Caviar of the East,” edible bird’s nests have exploded in popularity in recent years. Because of this development, counterfeit bird’s nests have also accelerated. These fake swallow nests, often made from animal fat and seaweed, lack any of the amazing health benefits that constitute legitimate edible bird’s nests. At Golden Nest, we only certify and sell the finest swallow’s nests on the market, using responsible sourcing and processing. Click here to view our wide selection of swallow’s nests.