Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup Delicacy: Facts, Benefits, Price & Recipe

Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup  Delicacy: Facts, Benefits, Price & Recipe

If you’ve ever come across any mention of the famed Chinese Delicacy Bird’s Nest Soup you’ve probably heard all kinds of good things about it. It’s good for infants, prevents you from falling sick, excellent for pregnant women, (is this the elixir to immortality?!)…..the list goes on!

Bird’s Nest Soup is made out of the nest of a swiftlet bird, which is formed with the bird’s saliva. The nest is boiled along with ginger and stock with the broth being the final product.

A History of Bird’s Nest Soup

This notorious soup has been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries. In fact, it was during the Ming Dynasty that Chinese people first began to consume bird’s nest soup.

There are different grades of bird’s nest – white, yellow, and white. The red bird’s nest was historically known in Chinese as the “blood-red bird’s nest”. It was also considered the rarest. Myths say that the red bird’s nest is made of the swiftlet’s blood, but this has been proven to be false. The actual reason for the bird’s nest turning red is because of the bird’s diet, which consists of different kinds of nutrients and minerals. 

It was historically only imperial nobility who had a chance to dine on the unique broth of bird’s nest soup. It is believed that the Chinese explorer Zhen was the first person in history to have eaten the bird’s nest. Whatever the past of this dish may be, we’re grateful the delicious recipe was set in motion!

Bird’s Nest Soup Health Benefits

Bird’s Nest Soup isn’t just delicious, it’s also full of valuable nutrition for your body. Pregnant women who’ve consumed the dish during pregnancy are known to deliver healthier babies, heal quicker after delivery, and experience lesser loss of hair. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine also stipulates that bird’s nests can help treat internal organs like the stomach, heart and lungs. Heavy smokers with periodic sputum stains can also consume high quality bird’s nests to heal faster. Moreover, it can also be used to counter the symptoms of sore throat, tiredness, etc. It’s a win-win for all! 

The main health benefits of bird’s nest soup are:

  • Skin health and repair
  • Easy to digest (helping to absorb nutrients)
  • Postnatal health supplement
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Enhances nerve functions
  • Increases immunity
  • Anti-aging supplement
  • Restores damaged cells and stimulates new cell growth
  • Increases the number of red blood cells

So when we described bird’s nest soup as the ‘elixir to immortality’, it wasn’t a joke! The gelatinous texture of the nest is actually said to help in collagen generation in the body and is subsequently very good for maintaining youth. Some studies have also shown that this delicacy is rich in epidermal growth factor (EGF), which plays an integral part in tissue and skin repair. The other magic ingredient in the soup is the “nutri-collagen,” which also helps in collagen generation. 

All that said, it’s important to keep in mind that if you really want to reap the benefits of bird’s nest soup, you’ll have to consume it regularly. Having a mere bowl of the soup once a month won’t make you look youthful or bring any health benefits. Instead, you must have a regular diet of at least 10g of the soup in order for it to work its magic.

How Much Does Bird’s Nest Soup Cost?

Swiftlet nest

Yes, there’s a lot of benefits to eating Bird’s Nest Soup, but it’s not without a hefty price tag. The main ingredient, birds nest, can cost upto $2,000 to $10,000 per kg. A single bowl of soup can hence cost as much as $100! Moreover, the increase in demand has caused even more of a surge in the prices and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Controversy

The price tag aside the Bird’s Nest Soup has come under fire many times because of the fact that this exotic delicacy is made from the nests of Swiftlets. 

In places like Thailand and Malaysia, people have began farming the swiftlets to collect their nests. These farms make use of empty houses as swiftlet’s homes. Now, swiftlets are already an endangered species. So the more nests that are consumed, the closer they head towards going extinct.

In fact, these beds are particularly endangered in areas like Nicobar Islands and the Andaman. There are also places like Hainan and Dazhou Island, where the local government has banned harvesting bird’s nests! 

Bird’s Nest Soup Recipe

The main ingredient of the dish, bird’s nest, is actually made out of Swiftlet saliva which has been hardened and dried after going through a whole process. Yes, you’re actually having a bowl of bird saliva and other ingredients!

It is also made to retain its flavours during this process. What’s fascinating is that it is extremely dangerous to pick out these nests which are usually located in mountaintop caves. In fact, many scouts have actually lost their lives while picking out the nests.

All of this has further contributed to the controversy around this dish. No wonder the nest costs $3000-4000 per kg!

Chinese Bird’s Nest Soup Recipe

A traditional Chinese broth made with the nest of a swiftlet, bird's nest soup has amazing health benefits and sought after properties.

Prep Time 1 day 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Travel Food Atlas

Ingredients

  • 30 g Birds nest
  • 1 litre Chicken stock
  • 1 thumb Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Soak the nest for 24 hours in water until it has expanded and softened.

  2. Remove and chop the nest into portions.

  3. Add the portions to a pot of water with the chicken stock, oil and ginger and brew for 15-20 minutes over heat until the nests have dissolved.

  4. Add sugar and salt in the pot, and cook for another thirty seconds. Thicken with cornstarch and stir for 1 minute.

  5. Adjust stock levels to taste, and add any required seasoning.

  6. Serve and enjoy!

Watch: Cooking Bird’s Nest Soup

Of course, there are all sorts of variations on the main recipe for bird’s nest soup. Here is a great video recipe you can follow along with which includes some additional ingredients and cooking tips.

All in all, the mystique around Bird’s Nest Soup is justified because of its fascinating history, recipe and health benefits. Yes, it might be a little heavy on your wallet, but it may just help you live longer!

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