When you dine in a Chinese restaurant, you probably notice that there’s a bird’s nest soup on their menu list. Perhaps, the first thing that crosses your mind is that this is just a creative name to call their best-seller soup. At first, you might order this out of curiosity. But once you taste it, it can be your new favorite soup because of its unique flavor—a combination of soft and salty taste—that savoring in your mouth.
But, bird’s nest is not just a funny way to name a soup. This Chinese delicacy is actually made using the edible nests of the birds. Its rarity, nutritional content as well as its unique flavor give pride to the Chinese culture since they are the first one who used bird’s nest in their cuisine. Mostly, it is used in making soup but it can be used as one of the ingredients in different dishes and sweets as well.
What is bird’s nest?
Bird’s nest is the actual nest of the birds called swiftlets—a cave-dwelling birds contained within the four genera Aerodramus, Hydrochous, Schoutedenapus and Collocalia. Together, theCollocaliinitribe was formed within swift family Apodidae. Their nests looked like a shallow cup that stuck to the cave wall. Unlike other birds that used twigs, leaves, feathers and mud for nest-making, male swiftlets are using their saliva to create their nest between 30 to 35 days. Once their saliva is formed and solidified, this becomes their place wherein the female swiftlets can lay and hatch their eggs, hold their offspring as well for themselves.
However, not all nests made by more than 30 species of swiftlets are edible. Only those two species belonging to the genus Aerodramus and one from the genus Collocalia can be used for human consumption. The highest quality of edible saliva nests are being produced by Aerodramusfuciphaga. Typically, edible nests come in white color but some of the colors include: yellow, gold, brown and red. The color varies depending on what these birds eat but all kinds contain high levels of iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It is safe for human consumption and can provide numerous health benefits to people.
Historically, this was first introduced in Chinese tradition for culinary use. But its place of origin could be traced back from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Nowadays, it is considered as one of the most expensive animal products bought by humans. When dissolved in water, it creates a sticky texture making it a perfect ingredient for soup.
How to clean a bird’s nest and how to make a bird’s nest soup at home?
Bird’s nest soup is amongst the most expensive food you can find in Chinese restaurants. In fact, this unusual delicacy only served for the kings and queens as well as other royalties in the past. Many centuries later, it still remains to be the dish for the royal. However, you can still get a bowl of soup even though you have no royal blood. Curious how to make it? Here’s a step by step on how to cook bird’s nest soup.
- Soak the nests in a bowl of cool water for about 2 to 3 hours to clean all the impurities. Its layers should have softened and expanded.
- Drain it using strainer. If your nests still have impurities, use tweezers to get those tiny feathers and dirt hiding in between layers. Make sure you don’t press it hard so that the nest won’t be crumbled. Once done, rinse it using cool water and drain.
- Put a fresh water on a pot that will serve as the soup of the nest. Place it over a medium heat for 30 minutes to two hours (depending on the quality of the nest) until it boils.
- Add the rock sugar, ginseng (or ginger if none), wolfberry and red dates to create an additional flavor to the soup. If you want your soup to be aromatic, you can put a little amount of vanilla.
- Stir it gently and put it in a low heat until it cooks.
- Once you get the gelatinous texture, it means that your nest is cooked.
- Serve it warm.
When you are planning to make a soup for your family and friends, it is good to use 1:1 as your estimated ratio. Use one nest for each person and for every nest use one rice bowl of water. This will help you get your desired gooeyness in your soup.
Benefits of Bird’s Nest
You might find it weird eating bird’s saliva but, believe it or not, it is packed with essential amino acids which your body needed and can only be gained through food. This makes this food nutritiously awesome.
Boosts your immune system
A bowl of bird’s nest soup can keep you warm during the winter season but beyond that it can boost your immune system. It contains protein that helps in creating B cells which your body needs to keep your immune system stronger. When consumed regularly, the nutrients you can get from the nest can shield you against diseases.
Promotes healthy skin
The nest has an anti-aging property that helps you fight wrinkles and other signs of aging due to declining of your skin elasticity. Moreover, the galactose and threonine substances that can be found in this food, when combined with glycine, promote healthy skin. Both are essential in skin cell structure while the amino acid threonine assists in the formation of collagen and elastin.
Helps your digestive system
Does your stomach always hurt? Do you often suffer from constipation which affects your bowel movement? If so, you might have gastrointestinal problem. Poor digestion does not only affect your intestines to function properly but can also prevent your body to absorb nutrients effectively. Before it leads you to complications, it is recommended to treat yourself as soon as possible by eating bird’s nest. It has an amino acid glycine which plays an important part in your digestive system. It enables you to digest fats easily through regulating of the synthesis of bile acid. Methionine is also present in here which helps your liver to function normally and flashes those toxins in your body.
Supports your cardiovascular activity
As mentioned above, bird’s nest has methionine and threonine which are both essential in functioning of your heart.Methionine acts as necessary substance in producing creatine—another amino acid mostly located in your brain and muscles. When your muscles function properly, it also supports your cardiovascular activity. The risk of heart diseases are likely to decline with the help of arginine which you can also be obtained from this.
Enhances your memory
Your memory enhances when you eat bird’s nest because of its amino acid phenylalanine content. This substance improves your memory by making you more alert and concentrated.
Bird’s nest has been culinary used in Chinese culture centuries ago and still part even at the present time. This food is considered to be the food for the royals because it is only served to the kings and queens back then. However, nowadays, you can get your bowl of bird’s nest soup even if you are no royal blood. Though, it remains to be one of the most expensive foods in Chinese cuisine even until now. But it is okay because it packed with numerous health benefits aside from those above mentioned. Apart from that, this is popularly luxurious because of its rarity, historical and cultural features attributed to it. When you cook, just remember not to add strong flavor that may overpower to its original taste. This food is precious so enjoy every sip of it.