By now you should have known there is no longer a limit to what can be eaten – especially when you are talking about Asia.
Bird nest’s soup is a prized delicacy in China and the soup’s chief ingredient is – guess what? – bird nest.
So there is a species of birds called swiftlets that build edible bird nest to hatch their young. The difference between this edible bird nest and other kinds of bird nests is that the kind of swiftlets that create these nests use their saliva instead of other materials like leaves and twigs to build the nest.
So the bird nest that is harvested for eating is literally hardened bird saliva. Local experts believe these nests have health benefits. The nests are rich in protein and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
They don’t come cheap. In fact, edible bird nests are so expensive in China that not many households can afford it. It is therefore considered luxurious dining. A kilogram of edible bird nest could cost up to $6,600, depending on the grade. You can compare this to eggs that cost just around $5 per kg.
Image: This is what edible bird nests look like – they are usually graded by colour with the red being the most expensive.
Edible bird nests are not just popular in China. The food ingredient is popular in other Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Bird nest soup is also consumed in the United States.
The nests are usually harvested in caves. In most swiftlet species it is the males that build these nests. It is a painstaking task as the process involves many days of constant spitting – it could take up to 40 days to complete a single nest.
Here is a video of a swiftlet constructing an edible bird nest using its saliva:
The bird nests are not just used in soups. There are other dishes that the nests are used in. Edible bird nests are used in cooking boiled rice and in making egg tarts and many other recipes.