Bird’s nest soup is a Chinese delicacy dating back centuries which is now sold around the world in top Chinese restaurants. There are some people who believe the name to be a misnomer and that there are in fact no bird’s nests used in the preparation of the soup but that is not the case. The principal ingredient in the soup is the nest of a particular species of bird from south-east Asia called a swiftlet.
Background to bird’s nest soup
The swiftlet nests in caves on cliff faces, making the process of collecting their nests extremely hazardous. There are often fatalities among those gathering the nests from the caves. Instead of making its nests from what it can scavenge from the surrounding countryside, the swiftlet actually makes its nests from its own saliva and it is this that lends the flavor and texture to bird’s nest soup. The nests can be either white or red, with the red nests costing up to five times as much as the white nests. This has led to a number of problems with suppliers trying to dye the white nests red to obtain the higher price.
How bird’s nest soup is made
The bird’s nests for soup are dry and require to be soaked in water overnight. While specific recipes for bird’s nest soup vary significantly – in common with many other recipes – it is chicken stock that is usually used as a base for the soup. Chicken meat will also often be added, along with perhaps mushrooms, green onions or any vegetable selection of the chef’s choice. The ingredients will be simmered for ten minutes or so and although cornstarch is often added to thicken the soup, the cooked bird’s nests do themselves have a slightly gelatinous quality.
Health benefits of bird’s nest soup
Although unproven, there are many health benefits or potential benefits attributed to bird’s nest soup. The various claims made range from the soup being beneficial to the immune system, to it being an effective aphrodisiac. The established facts are that it is beneficial by having a high content of calcium, iron and potassium.
Bird’s nest soup is extremely expensive to buy, with a single bowl costing up to a hundred dollars in certain restaurants. This is due to the dangerous harvesting process and the often limited availability of the principal ingredient. In modern times, however, man made concrete structures are being built to emulate the birds’ natural habitat in an attempt to make the nest collection process easier and safer.a g