China has a unique cultural and historical background. It is equally famous for its food. If you know about it, they take pride in the fact that they can cook even legs and wings into a delicious feast. So, you can assume the varieties it can offer you. And every dish has an unmistakable local flavor and character. If you have gorged in Chinese delicacies, the chances are you must have heard about bird’s nest soup. This dish is both popular and controversial at the same time. Many people even don't mind indulging in it for an additional expense because they feel it can keep them young, healthy, and strong.
Singaporeans also seem to be quite crazy about this magic skin food because of its taste and health benefits. However, to ensure you get to enjoy the goodness of its ingredients, you need to take it regularly. If you think a small bowl of the soup can endow you with youthfulness and longevity, then you are holding the wrong end of the stick. The superfood can shower its magic on you when you make it a part of your diet, as some people believe. According to promoters, a regular dose of ten grams per day is a must to experience its perks.
Another exciting thing about it is the fact that this delicacy has a literal meaning, unlike many others, which derive their name from their appearance. For instance, you can imagine about Bird's nest cookies. Since it contains chow mein noodles and liquid chocolate resembling such a structure, it enjoys that epithet. But the soup is a different thing; it doesn’t have any similarity with the actual nest-like structures that you must have been apprehending. It is a recipe made from a real bird’s nest.
Use of edible bird's nest in the soup
You could be wondering if these nests are also found in trees like the other abandoned ones. These edible bird's nests are of the small Southeast Asian birds called swiftlet. They hide in dark caves, just like bats and travel places based on echolocation. And the more surprising part is, their nests don’t contain twigs and straw. They use their sticky saliva located beneath the tongue to form one. Due to exposure to air, the nests eventually become hardened.
The bird's nest looks gorgeous in their hammock-like shape, boasting red, yellow, or white threads. The nest sits in a secure corner of the cave wall, and hence, it is not easy to remove them. That's why its harvesting process tends to be slightly risky. Due to the position of the nests on elevated locations in caves, the nest collector has to use a wooden ladder to access them. The ladder tends to be long, narrow, and rickety.
People don’t hesitate to spend money on birds nest soup because it is an exotic delicacy. But there are particular controversies around it. Of them, one is about the danger of the extinction of swiftlets. Anyway, there are some places which farm this species for nest collection.
A little bit of background about bird’s nest soup
It is an ancient dish used for many generations in China. As per traditional beliefs, soup has been a part of Chinese cuisine from the time of the Ming Dynasty. Others think that it was a Chinese explorer and diplomat Zhen He who first consumed this dish.
Furthermore, Bird's nest can be of different grades, such as white, red, and yellow. Of all, the red one is most rare. According to a group of people, the red nest consists of swiftlet's blood. However, it’s a false belief. The nest gets its red color from the mineral-rich diet and a variety of nutrients that a bird eats.
The way people obsess over it can make you feel that this soup must have a fantastic taste. But the truth is that it doesn't have any unique flavor. The texture is also familiar with soft jelly or gelatin. Chinese usually use rock sugar to make this soup and serve it as a part of a dessert. Some foodies mix warm milk in place of rock sugar, though.
Benefits of consuming birds nest soup
This saliva-woven nest enjoys a special place in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There are some fascinating facts and opinions about this edible product. Let’s dig into them one by one.
- Immunity: The nest consists of a high amount of glycoproteins that help build a weak immune system. A glycoprotein is rich in carbohydrates, which play a critical role in the development of human cells and their functions. As a result, it can have a positive impact on your immunity, cell communication, skin health, and reproductive systems.
- Speedy recovery: Its regular consumption in a moderate amount allows your body to absorb its proteins and nutrients well, and as a result, you can see an improvement in your chronic conditions. It can be particularly beneficial to chronic coughs and asthma.
- Supplement for children: In growth years, children need proteins, minerals, and amino acids in proper proportion for their physical health and, consumption of bird’s nest can take care of it.
- Senior’s health: Aging people can consume it to improve and enhance their overall health. Since it can clear Phlegm, older people can find relief from dry coughs and fatigue that are mostly age-related issues. Besides, it can be helpful in digestion, bowel movement, and appetite.
- Beauty food: According to some, it can enhance your complexion and youthfulness because it contains a substance called epidermal growth factor (EGF), which facilitates improvement in skin and tissues.
Exciting things about Bird's nest
You get to learn about Bird's nest when you probably move to Singapore. There are some enchanting points about this edible product too that you may chance upon over time. Let's explore a few of them quickly here.
- Consumption: Since traditional medicine sees it as a tonic, some people think you should eat it before meals so that your body can digest all the nutrients.
- The red color of the nest: As already discussed, some people assume that swiftlet’s blood is a reason behind the red color of the nest. It is a faulty apprehension. The nest turns red due to oxidation or the absorption of minerals from the environment.
- Origin: The tradition of eating Bird's nest is nearly 400 years old. And why it is still a craze is simple to understand. Its contribution to better immunity, recovery, asthma relief, digestion, motion, and others has probably more to do with its popularity and continued consumption.
- Price: It’s a superfood; hence, you can expect it to cost you a bit on the higher side. Anyway, the charges depend on the quality of the nest or product.
- New Year’s gift: You can gift someone this product on Lunar New Year without any hesitation as it stands for good health.
- Fake products: Because of its popularity among people, some stores sell counterfeit Bird's nest items also. So, be careful of them. Buy from a trusted and specialized store only for a safe purchasing experience.
- Museum in Kranji: It may surprise you that there is a Swiftlet Garden Museum in Singapore. It is a rural museum where you can learn about the natural processing techniques and history of edible swiftlets' nests.
A few tips about bird’s nest soup recipe
You can make soup after boiling the bird's nest twice along with rock sugar to give it a sweet flavor. You can eat it hot or chilled. In the preparation, you have to take care of a few things, including soaking and cleaning the nest, hours of cooking, proper stewing, ingredients, and so on. How long you need to soak Bird's nest depends on its quality and variety. Usually, a farm nest requires three to eight hours of soaking, while a cave nest needs 24 hours to soften. When you cook it, you cannot place it on the flame directly.
You need to apply indirect heat to stew or steam it. For this, you can use a bowl and put it in a hot water pot, which would help cook the Bird's nest. To reduce your labor, you can use electronic stewing pots or slow cookers as well. However, make sure the heat is low intensity so that the Bird's nest can stay warm.
As far as the choice of ingredients goes, water and rock sugar or organic raw honey are the main things. For a flavorful taste and more nutrition, you can also add red dates, wolfberries, Korean or American Ginseng, etc.
Anyway, it is going to be a long process, and you have to be quite careful about how you cook this soup.
If you don't want any of this hassle and just swallow its goodness in comfort, then opt for ready-made products available in the retail stores. The ready-to-drink Bird's nests follow all the strict food and hygiene standards to ensure the best results for consumers. However, just make sure you buy it from a trustworthy place only.