Birds' Nests are a Chinese delicacy.
When we think of a bird’s nest, we imagine newly born chicks with their mouths open wide waiting to be fed some yummy worms. But would you think about a bird’s nest as something to eat?? Silly as that may sound, in some places bird’s nests are quite a delicacy. In Asia, and mostly in China, you may see “bird’s nest” on a menu at a restaurant. You’ll see birds nest soups, noodles, and even cookies. Now, if you’re imagining eating a bird’s nest and pulling twigs out from between your teeth, don’t worry; this Chinese delicacy has no twigs. Bird’s nests have been eaten in China as a traditional soup for more than 400 years.
Swiftlets’ way of building nests
In South East Asia, tiny birds called swiftlets build their nests in caves by the sea. These nests are bound together by the birds’ own saliva — or spit! Skilled climbers go into the caves and use bamboo scaffolding to reach, then harvest the nests. As you can imagine, this is a tricky and dangerous job which must be done during certain periods when the nests are empty.
Some bundles of bird’s nest may be sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars whilst others are broken up into very small pieces, mixed in with sweet gelatine and sold in jars for just a few dollars.
But how and why is it eaten?
The nests need to be cleaned and softened and so they are boiled for a long time. Then they are added with other ingredients such as chicken stock, water or rock sugar, to make a cold broth that may be either savory or sweet tasting.
Although in the West, the dish may sound a little strange; it is linked to Chinese medicine and is thought to have many health benefits, such as being good for the skin, lungs and even the immune system which helps prevent people getting sick.
Did you know?
- Nowadays, to be sure there are plenty of nests to harvest, companies are building concrete nesting sites. Inside of these, special devices are placed which emit pretend bird calls to attract the swiftlets to come nest.
- Although the nests are white; their color changes with age...to yellow, orange and then red!
- In many areas, the nests are so valuable that the caves are guarded by armed security to stop nest thieves!
By Deborah L. Caine (Whyzz writer)