If you’re open-minded about trying new foods and learning about new cultural cuisines, you might have heard about edible bird’s nest.
Of course, you may have a few questions about this delicacy and all the health benefits it offers or you may be wondering, ‘is it actually bird spit?’.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What is Bird’s Nest?
- Bird’s Nest Health Benefits
- Bird’s Nest - The Caviar of the East
- How is Bird’s Nest Made and Harvested?
- What does Bird’s Nest Taste Like?
- Are there Animal Treatment Issues Regarding Bird’s Nest?
What is Bird’s Nest?
You’re probably wondering if this food item is really a bird’s nest as you picture a brown nest filled with twigs and feathers up in a tree in your yard. Yes, it really is a bird’s nest but nothing like the ones in your yard and so much tastier than you can imagine.
These edible bird’s nests come from edible nest swiftlets (aka the white nest swiftlet), Indian swiftlets and swiftlets - small birds in the swift family - and the nests are made from solidified saliva. It adds a unique savory taste to any dish.
Bird’s nests are graded based on the type of bird and color of the nest itself. Most of the nests are white, gold, red or blood nest.
The Chinese have used the bird’s nest in their cooking for more than 400 years and has an equally long history of providing health benefits.
What are some of the health benefits of Bird's Nest?
Bird’s nests are a central part of Chinese medicine and are believed to offer many health benefits. From healthier pregnancies to stronger immune systems, people gain a lot of nutrients and health benefits from eating this delicacy.
A group of Chinese scientists conducted a study to determine if eating bird’s nest benefited a person’s immune system. By introducing radiation to mice and then feeding them edible bird’s nest, they determined that the mice recovered the lost white blood cells, a central part of the body’s immune system.
They believe this production of white blood cells came from unique proteins found in the nests. These same proteins exist in the bird’s nest you can purchase for cooking and you can reap the benefits.
Bird’s nests contain six hormones, including testosterone and estradiol. Testosterone is known to build muscle, lower fat, relieve depression and a variety of other benefits.
Estradiol is a type of estrogen. Its benefits include preventing osteoporosis and relieving menopause symptoms. The levels of estradiol are low enough that pregnant women and men can enjoy the edible nests.
In Southeast Asia, studies have shown that bird’s nest can promote eye health and speed healing after a cornea trauma. Chinese women coveted bird’s nest and swear it helps with their complexion. For men, it’s believe that the edible bird’s nest promotes virility and offers a natural aphrodisiac.
With so many health benefits for you, it’s no wonder this delicacy became known as the ‘caviar of the east’.
How Did it Become the “Caviar of the East”?
Many people refer to the bird’s nest as the “caviar of the East”. Part of the reason for the name stems from its origins in China and the Far East. Of course, another reason comes from the cost of buying a bird’s nest.
Since this delicacy is made by birds, there is a limited supply, which drives the price. Indonesia is the largest exporter of bird’s nest, and prices can run as high as $3,000 per pound. For many centuries, the caviar of the East was a treat reserved for royals and their courts.
Of course, a lot of work goes into harvesting and preparing bird’s nest for consumption. Also, there are inherent dangers in harvesting bird’s nests from building rafters and inside caves, which also explains the cost.
How is Bird's Nest Made and Harvested?
Bird’s nest farms lure swift birds into a dark location - barns, warehouses and other large structures - with an amplified bird whistle. Once settled into the building, the birds make their nests, using primarily solidified saliva.
It can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year for the birds to build their nests, hatch their young and finally abandon the nests. After the birds leave their nests, the farmers come in and harvest the nests, by climbing up and removing them.
Farmers try to provide a safe and welcoming environment for birds so that they return each season. This provides farmers with an ongoing source of builders.
Before bird’s nest farms started, people traveled deep into the woods and caves to find and harvest nests. Today the rarest bird’s nests are still harvested from caves on the islands in Vietnam.
When To Eat Bird's Nest
As we've mentioned above, bird's nest is believed to have many health benefits and we've mentioned that during pregnancy would be a recommended time to consume edible bird's nest.
However, the time of year that bird's nest is likely most associated with is Lunar New Year. It makes a great gift but it's also a way to start the new year with a health and immune system boost.
As for the time of day, many recommend consuming bird's nest on an empty stomach for best results. You can also have it after a meal as a dessert.
Lastly, one of the most common times to consume bird's nest is when you have a cold. Studies have shown that the glycoproteins in bird's nest can help dissipate phlegm.
There isn't a 'bad time' to have bird's nest but these are some of the recommended times and occasions to enjoy bird's nest.
What Does Bird's Nest Taste Like?
Birds in the swift family eat primarily saltwater fish. Since the birds use their saliva to make the nests, the delicacy has a salty and slight briny taste to it.
Bird’s nests are often boiled in water to create a gelatinous mix to add to soup, rice and a variety of dishes, including desserts to give them a savory taste. Depending on the quality of the nest, there might be a pungent smell.
Can I Drink Expired Bird's Nest Drink?
We don't recommend drinking bird's nest after the expiration date. We advise that you treat bird's nest drink with the same approach as other bottled and canned foods.
However, there's a story here about an individual who consumed a 12-year-old bottle of bird's nest.
Edible Bird's Nest Protein Content
Using Golden Nest as an example, our edible bird's nest contains 4 grams of protein for every 8 gram serving size.
Also based on a study that we've referred to, protein in edible bird's nests help accelerate the creation of B cells to help boost the immune system.
Animal Treatment Issues
Of course, a guide to edible bird’s nest wouldn’t be complete without discussing the treatment of the birds.
When a farmer lures the swift birds to their farms, they provide a safe environment for birds to build their nests and providing them with a nesting house. These birds are able to come and go as they desire.
Many farmers wait until the baby birds are born and ready to leave the nest before harvesting the nests. These farms mimic locations that the birds would build their nests in the wild.
The Five Most Popular Birds Nest Dishes
- Bird’s Nest Soup - this soup is by far the best known dish that uses a nest. With a gelatinous texture, the soup is considered a delicacy in the world of Chinese cuisine. There is also a sweet version of this soup.
- Bird’s Nest Rice - After boiling the bird’s nest in water, the cook adds the mix to rice to give it a rustic, briny taste.
- Asian Pear with Bird’s Nest Dessert - After soaking the bird’s nest in water and adding rock sugar, you place the mixture, goji berries and coconut milk inside a hollow out Asian pear for a healthy dessert with the right amount of sweetness.
- Papaya and Bird’s Nest Dessert - Combine melted bird’s nest, chunks of papaya and coconut milk and pour into a glass. Serve chilled like a pudding.
- Bird’s Nest Jelly - prepare bird’s nest jelly by placing the nest in water with sugar and double steaming it.
Click here to see more recipes.
Golden Nest offers only the best quality bird’s nests for your culinary pleasure or as a thoughtful gift. Click here to view our wide selection of premium swallow’s nests.