Bird's nest is a type of Chinese food?

May 24, 2021

Chinese food is known for its great variety. Some dishes are internationally well known, such as dumplings and sweet and sour pork, some are only recognized by locals, and others have gained some dubious popularity due to the way it is cooked. For instance, 皮蛋(Century Egg)was rated one of top 10 most disgusting dishes by CNN in 2011 and raised a huge controversy in that time because many Chinese believed that CNN reporters didn't eat century eggs in a proper way. 

Regardless, today we are talking about another type of Chinese food, that will definitely evoke your interest: the bird's nest(燕窝).  But if, judging by the name, you imagine that the Chinese are eating tree branches - you are totally wrong! The one we are telling you about is called the "edible bird's nest" that is created by swiftlets which use their solidified saliva to build their nests. Such nests can be later harvested and used for human consumption.

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(a natural bird's nest in Thailand)

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(bird's nest that is ready to cook)

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(blood nest)

An edible bird's nest is among the most expensive animal products that can be found in the market because it is known for its nutritious value and extra beneficial effects for skincare. The price of edible bird's nest is differentiated based on its color and shape. Usually the edible bird's nest is white, but sometimes it can be colored red - known as a "blood nest"(血燕), it is usually much more expensive than the original one because it is perceived as more nutritious, containing more protein and having better flavour. 

So how does it taste like?

Well, now you know that it certainly doesn't taste like tree branches! In fact edible birds nest itself doesn't really have a strong flavour: it is usually served with broth, coconut milk or honey, and its texture can be described as "chopped jelly or snow fungus(银耳), but much smoother".  Would you like to have a try? You can find such dishes in many high-end Chinese restaurants.

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(bird's nest soup)

Written by Francesco Peng for IMCPI