12 May Bird’s nest soup- a delicacy made out of saliva
Bird’s nest soup – a delicacy made out of saliva
The bird’s nest soup is an edible-nest-swiflet which is found mostly in South-east Asia and is build with saliva. The nests are rich in protein and therefore highly demanded. The White- nest swiflet uses only its spittle for the nests whereas the Black-nest swiflet also uses feathers and leafs for building the nests.
As soon as the nests are finished workers come to harvest them. Sometimes when the nests are built high up in caves people even risk their lives to collect them. In these cases they climb on shaky bamboo scaffolds to reach the nests. Later the nests are being cleaned and sold. One kg of bird’s nest costs about 2500 USD and a bowl of bird’s nest soup around 30USD.
Especially in China bird’s nest soup are very popular and people are willing to pay a lot for this delicacy. Unfortunately there is only one type of swiflet in China producing edible nests. That’s the reason why China has to import this product from other countries such as India, Indonesia, Borneo and Thailand. According to the traditional Chinese medicine bird’s nests have a preventive and healing effect on the human body. Furthermore it is said that it increases potency. A company in Singapore mixes the nests with sugar and water and creates a kind of energy drink- they believe that this mixture helps in skin rejuvenation.
In the last few years there has been a constant increase in the demand for bird’s nests which led to a rise in prices. As a result it became more and more popular to use artificial bird houses to industrialize the nest production. In the surrounding area of Khao Lak there are a few new and huge but windowless buildings. Sending out signals to swiflets they try to attract the birds to enter the houses through pipes and to build their nests inside. Before the birds lay the eggs into their nests the nests are removed and collected. If the birds have to build their nests several times without having the chance to lay their eggs, the quality of the nests decreases.
To prepare such a soup the nests are being soaked in water and later cooked with beef in chicken broth. The soup then turns into a gelatinous liquid with a mild taste.
In Europe the demand for bird’s nests is very low and therefore the dish can hardly be found on menus of Chinese restaurants in Europe.
On our Khao Lak Land Discovery trip to Koh Phi Phi we stop at the Viking Cave where swiflets build their nests. About 200kg nests are being harvested in the Viking Cave per year. The collecting time for the nests takes about three months and is followed by a break of three months during which the birds build new nests.