How to Cook Bird’s Nest
Swiftlets spit and build their nests with it. Men scale heights and risk their lives to harvest it, and consumers pay big bucks to eat it. Bird’s nest, a pale resin-like substance made up of interwoven strands of salivary laminae cement, is something that most Chinese mothers would love to eat on Mother's Day. It can be prepared either as a savoury soup or a dessert. Below, we give you recipes for both.
Bird’s nest is believed to boost the immune system and raise the libido. Women believe that eating it daily enhances their complexion, making it a perfect gift for mums. Bird’s nest contains high levels of protein, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. In fact, bird’s nest itself is almost tasteless; it requires additional effort to render it tasty.
Generally, there are three types of bird’s nest, and they are easily recognisable through their colour: red, white and yellow. The red variety nest owes its hue to metal pigments found in the iron oxide cave walls to which the nests cling; it is the most prized and comes with a price tag to match.
The white variety is more popular and more readily available. Its texture is the smoothest of the three, hence its popularity. But when buying white bird’s nest, in particular, be cautious of its source. It is known that some suppliers heavily bleach their products to obtain the valued whiteness — so ensure that you buy from a reliable retailer. The last variety — yellow bird’s nest — contains the most minerals and has a crunchier bite to its texture.
Raw bird’s nest usually comes in two forms: complete pieces or broken pieces. Naturally, the complete pieces command a higher price while the other is more affordable. However, the nutritional value of both is the same.
To lessen the hassle of preparation, you could buy bird’s nests that have already been cleaned, i.e. with all pinfeathers and foreign particles removed. The little extra that you might have to pay for it would be worth it, as removing such numerous and minute particles by hand can be, as you might imagine, very painstaking and tedious.
To prepare dried bird’s nest, following the following steps:
- Allocate 15g of bird’s nest per person.
- Soak bird’s nest in water for 24 hours.
- Change the water at least twice during this process.
- Using a pair of tweezers, remove pinfeathers and foreign particles.
- Drain water from the bird’s nest.
- Put bird’s nest in a bowl, pour hot water and drain immediately. The bird’s nest is ready for cooking.
Papaya with Bird’s Nest Soup
- Boil 100g crushed rock sugar in 1.5L mineral water until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Place 300g papaya (cut into 2cm x 2.5cm pieces), 50g white fungus (soaked for 2 hours) and 60g pre-cleaned bird’s nest in a double-boiler.
- Steam for at least two hours. Adjust the sweetness of the soup and
Double-Boiled Bird’s Nest with Pigeon
- Put 2 prepared pigeons; 60g pre-cleaned bird’s nest; 100g pre-soaked dried longan; 100g dried arrow root (soaked overnight); 1.75L mineral water and 1/2 tsp salt into a double-boiler.
- Steam for four to six hours. Season with salt and serve immediately.