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The Caviar of the East
Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and China all agree that one of the healthiest things you can eat is bird's nest.
Yes, bird's nest.
The practice originated in ancient China by healers who offered the delicacy to kings and nobles. It's not just any bird's nest but specifically the nests of the swiftlet, a cave dwelling bird which can be found in Asia and as far as the South Pacific. The swiftlet makes their nest not out of twigs or other findings but out of their own sticky salivia. Eating swiftlet bird's nests is believed to have tremendous health benefits aiding in an increased life span.
For centuries, consuming swiftlet's nests has been a luxury. Harvesting the nests from high up in caves was a difficult and dangerous task, that is if it was even available. In the 90's the swiftlet population decreased dramatically due to overharvesting. It wasn't until recent years where people began constructing "bird hotels" to accomodate and entice swiftlets with a place to nest. The industry grew exponentially from 900 to over 60,000 houses in Asia with over 10,000 in Vietnam alone. In the following years of establishing the houses, the swiftlet population bounced back yet the price for a nest still remains high due to high demand. To this day, eating bird's nest is considered a luxury dish. The price of edible bird's nests in Vietnam is quite expensive ranging from $140 USD for average quality to $1000 USD for premium for 100g, 10 pieces per box.
Cave's explored for natural harvesting
Swiftlet houses for sustainable farming
Farmed Bird's NestThe nest is harvested annually when the chicks leave the nest and leave the nest empty to to ensure future supply. It is normal to find feathers and other impurities therefore, it is imperative that they be cleaned prior to being consumed.
Raw Uncleaned Bird's Nest on Left, Cleaned Bird's Nest on Right
According to researchers, swiftlet nests contain 18 amino acids, some of which have very high levels of aspartic acid, serine, tyrosine, and leucine. These amino acids assist the body in recovery from exposure to radiation and other toxicities. Studies have shown that bird's nest contains strong anti-inflammatory properties, high levels of protein and the ability to help reduce the side effects from chemotherapy.
So what does dried bird spit it taste like? The flavor is neutral and the texture is gelatinous. Vietnamese people often prepare the nest with folk ingredients such as lotus seeds, jujube and rock sugar. They believe that these ingredients combined together will bring many benefits to the body.
For children, bird's nest helps with nutrient absorption, contribues to healthier brain development while promoting restful sleep. Bird's nest has wonderful anti-aging propeties that promote healthy skin tone, collagen production, and increased bone density.
In Vietnam, there are hundreds of companies that specialize in the pre-processed (cleaned) bird nest business as it can easily be purchased at any grocery store. Carver Dan purchases his from a company that specializes in selling reputable swallow nests for daily use. He claims that Vietnam's swallow nest has made him healthier and enjoys how easy it is to prepare.
How to cook Bird’s Nest
Raw materials for processing water-proof nest:
~ Processed Bird's Nest
~Sugars ( Rock sugars )
~Boil water to cool.
Instructions for cleaning the nest.
Soak the nest in hot water for 1-2 hours or overnight before using. Then rinse with water to remove any excess feathers and remaining dirt.
An even easier preparation would be putting it in the pot and cooking with the ingredients for 20 minutes then turning off the heat to cool and enjoy.(tastes better consumed warm). Bird nest can be occasionally found on the menu at asian restaurants. The price can range from $30 to $100 for one single bowl!
Besides the beneficial effects of the nest recommended consumption should not exceed 3-4 times a week. Overuse is believed to have negative side effects including creating an imbalance in the body. So next time you see bird's nest on the menu go ahead and give it a try. It may be the Elixir of Life!