Bird’s Nest Soup

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bird's nest soup aphrodisiac

Bird's nest soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine made from the nests of “cave swifts.” The nests are edible because it is made of hardened saliva from the birds. The nests have been traditionally consumed in China for over 400 years, most often as Bird's Nest Soup and one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans also. When dissolved in water, the birds' nests have a gelatinous texture used for making the soup. It is prepared either salty or sweet.

The most heavily harvested nests are from the White-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) and the Black-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus maximus). The white nests and the “red blood” nests are supposedly rich in nutrients which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising libido, improving the voice, alleviating asthma, increasing concentration, and an overall benefit to the immune system.

Hong Kong and the United States are the largest importers of these nests. In Hong Kong a bowl of Bird Nest Soup would cost US$30 to $100. A kilogram of white nest can cost up to $2,000, and a kilogram of “red blood” nest can cost up to $10,000. The white nests are commonly treated with a red pigment, but methods have been developed to determine an adulterated nest.

The high prices were due to the fact that the nests are very rare to find and harvesting it is a seriously risky business especially for its collectors. This soup is popular throughout Asia with the mega-rich. The soup some say is hardly tasty and looks unappealing but it is well sought after due to its extraordinary medicinal powers and that includes its being an aphrodisiac. The white bird’s nest was believed to be good for the skin while the red one is good for the body and energy.

According to legend, long ago in China, there was an Emperor who loved to taste different gourmet dishes made by the Royal Cook. Each dish was exotic and different every day. If the cook fails to provide a new dish for the Emperor, not only will he lose his position he’ll also lose his head. And so one day out of desperation, he searched the harbor for a new exotic dish and found the bird’s nest soup from a merchant who told him about the longevity and libidinous properties of the said exotic food. According to the merchant, it was from Borneo where the locals eat it for its nearly magical properties but how to prepare it he doesn’t know. The cook prepared it in a form of soup and served it to his majesty. Knowing the Emperor's passion for Feng Shui and longevity, the Royal Cook cunningly presented the soup with a dragon on one side and a phoenix on the other, with the soup in the middle.

The Emperor eagerly tasted the soup after knowing that it is a “longevity soup” and that it smelled sweet and aromatic; but after discovering that it tastes plain, he began to question the cook. The cook, fearing for his life, consistently urged the Emperor to taste it again and again to look for a certain taste which he himself begins to doubt. The Emperor was irritated and was on the verge of ordering the cook’s execution when the Royal Cook explained; “In Borneo..." he started. “In Borneo, the people there eat this soup for longevity. It keeps the people young and healthy. It lengthens their years, and they live long and prosperous lives because of this soup." The cook went on about the benefits of the soup, emphasizing the longevity and a subtle hint of the libidinous properties of the dish. The Emperor's eyes lit up; because he knew that Borneo was an exotic place. The pillars of the Forbidden City were made from timbers that came from Borneo. The Emperor was pleased to hear the cook’s story and so, after he finished his meal, he announced that the longevity soup was to be served to him on a regular basis, and the Royal Cook was duly rewarded.

To keep the Emperor from finding out that the longevity soup's raw ingredient was bird's nest, the Royal Cook ensured that all those who brought back the birds' nests from Borneo were killed. New crews were sent to retrieve the nests each time. True enough, the Emperor lived a long and prosperous life. The longevity soup was only served to the Royal Family and wealthy merchants. It was not allowed to be served to the general population. The longevity soup became renowned as a royal dish, and its potent properties claimed by the merchant were proven to be true.

1 comment :

  1. my relatives on my mom's side of the family tried to make me eat it. i think i had the same problem at the time i heard it was bird spit. but for the sake of health, I am now consuming it regularly.

    btw, i don't buy the super-expensive kind like old people do. the ready-to-drink kind at the stores are pretty affordable. (e.g. www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm)