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Bird's Nest in Chinese Cuisine

Bird's Nest

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Edible Bird's nest?? I can't imagine how one can transform twigs and grasses into a gourmet food.

The nests in making bird's nest soups are exclusively those of swiflets, the birds from the family of common swallow. These highly prized nests are built and clung to the ceiling of the caves as high as 70m by the birds mostly of seaweed that is mixed by their own saliva, making the process of harvesting an ordeal and expensive. Swiflets nests are mostly found on cliffs in areas along the Southern Chinese coast and South East Asia .

Bird’s nests are available in two forms – complete piece (cup shaped) which is better in quality, or broken pieces; and in two conditions -clean (often pale yellowish unless it’s another variety called “bloody bird’s nest” which is reddish in color) or unclean (blackish, contaminated with feathers and twigs). The best kind is devoid of pinfeathers and foreign particles and in good shape. The preparation of unclean bird’s nests can be a very tedious task. First you need to soak them for at least a day. It will expand, loosening most impurities to float to the top. Wash the nests under running water and repeat the process if necessary until nothing comes loose by itself anymore.

The remaining stubborn impurities stuck in the nests will have to be patiently hand picked using a pair of tweezers aided by a pair of sharp eyes, which explains why, despite the price difference, very few people would go for the unclean nests. For clean nests, soak in cold water for about 3 hours or until soft, then clean them under running water and they are ready to go.

It's expensive, difficult to prepare and not to mention, made from spit??!! Give me really good reasons why I should even think of trying it.

Rich in protein, calcium, iron and other nutrients, bird's nest is good for all, young and old, men and women, the sick and mother-to-be. T he Chinese have been relishing bird's nest as medicinal gourmet food for centuries and believe it replenishes and nourishes the internal organs, speed up recovery from illness, and boosts overall well being. Of all, the most widely known benefit of consuming bird's nest is its ability to rejuvenate, restore youthfulness and ensure glowing and wrinkle-free complexion, the one reason sufficient to explain why it is such a hot commodity and luxury to the Chinese women. Last but not least, it tastes good too!

OK, now I have spent 12 hours cleaning the bird's nest and know all the good things it can do to my skin, how do I cook them??!

Although it is a gourmet food, cooking bird's nest is relatively simple, employing very few other ingredients and methods in cooking them. In most occasions, if not all, bird's nests are either served in soup with chicken, ham or quail eggs and seasoned with salt; or as dessert where they are double-boiled with water and rock sugar. The texture of cooked bird's nests is like that of strings of agar-agar or jelly. Alternatively, one can easily buy ready made "Bird's Nest with Rock sugar" in bottles in Chinese specialty stores and some supermarkets with Asian sections.

A few Bird's nest recipes for you to beautify yourself.
1) Bird's Nest with Sugar Rock
2) Bird's Nest Soup with Chinese Mushroom

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.