Traditionally, Bird’s Nest has always been known as a valuable Chinese tonic present in royal feasts and also commonly serves as tributes among ancient royals. Thereafter, many professionals have confirmed in the “New Materia Medica” (本草从新) and the “Materia Medica truth” (本草求真) that Bird’s Nest has been transformed from a gourmet food into a dietary food treasure. Bird’s Nest tastes sweet and is gently mild, calm in nature, reduces coughing and helps in clearing phlegm, nourishes the body, and is a panacea for fast recovery from general illnesses.
WHAT IS BIRD'S NEST?
Bird’s Nest is actually the saliva secretion of a particular type of swallow known as the Apodidae swiftlet (雨燕科金丝燕) where its nest is built. There are many varieties of swallows but only the saliva secretion from this particular swallow is considered edible and safe for human consumption, containing high protein purity & nutritional value. The Apodidae swiftlet usually builds its nests on rock caves.
Bird’s nests are mainly produced in the Southeast Asian regions, with each region producing bird’s nests of differing texture and taste. The bird’s nests we retail are entirely originated from the Indonesia coastal areas, where its quality assurance has been guaranteed with careful inspection to achieve consistency prior to exporting to our country.
HARVESTING PERIOD AND GRADE
There are generally three harvesting periods of bird’s nest in a year. First harvesting period of bird’s nest, the “First Phase”, is from January to April. The next harvesting period “Second Phase” and the last harvesting period “Third Phase” are in the following months in sequential order. The Bird’s Nest harvested from the “First Phase” is regarded as the best quality compared to the other phases harvested during the year.
“First Phase” of Bird’s Nest
Swiftlets first start building their nest in winter, with their body storing sufficient nutrients that help in its healthy growth to induce saliva secretion at its prime. Under such favorable winter conditions, Bird’s Nest harvested during this period is purer, larger in size and thicker in texture. Our company imports the freshest “First Phase” Bird’s Nest shipment by air, and ensures sufficient supply of “First Phase” Bird’s Nest throughout the year to fulfill customers’ demand.
“Second Phase” of Bird’s Nest
After a few months into the dry season, swiftlets will be building their nests for the second time. With reduced food supply for swiftlets during this unfavorable dry season, they are comparatively weak and saliva secretion is slow, affecting bird’s nest overall quality with inferior texture compared to the “First Phase” Bird’s Nest.
“Third Phase” of Bird’s Nest
Into the severe dry season, the swiftlet is extremely weak due to the drought. Saliva secretion is slow, coupled with lots of feather shedding, thus resulting in increased impurities in the Bird’s Nest. The Bird’s Nest is usually smaller in size and has lesser expandability.
DISTINGUISHING DIFFERENT SPECIES OF BIRD’S NEST
Bird’s Nest species can be divided in 4 categories: Bird’s Nest Cup, Bird’s Nest Strips, Bird’s Nest Cake and Bird’s Nest Corner.
Bird’s Nest Cup (燕盏)
Bird’s Nest cup is harvested in its original natural cup-shaped form, and hence will vary in both shapes and sizes. Bird’s Nest cup is sub-divided based on its color appearance into “White Bird’s Nest” (官燕), “Yellow Bird’s Nest”(金絲燕), and “Red Bird’s Nest” (血燕).
Red Bird’s Nest is generally known as “血燕”, where its red color is caused by the food that the swiftlet feeds on, which contains iron and other minerals. The color of these minerals turn red after oxidation due to the humid environment. In general, Red Bird’s Nest is regarded as the best among others in terms of nutritional value, taste, quality and appearance.
They are broken nests collected during harvest or strips cut out from Bird’s Nest cups.
Bird’s Nest Strips (燕条)
Bird’s Nest Cake (燕饼)
Bird’s Nest cake is usually made from nests of grass swiftlets and feather swiftlets, where nests are broken during harvesting and then molded into different shapes (such as rhombus, ball, half-moon and rectangular etc.). The color of Bird’s Nest cake is mainly in white and yellow. In general, it takes a little more effort in processing nests of feather swiftlet, where work is needed to break up the nest, remove the feathers and impurities, then mold it into Bird’s Nest cake. Though Bird’s Nest cake may have lesser effectiveness compared to Bird’s Nest cup, it has rather good expansion capacity when soaked in water.
Bird’s Nest Corner (燕角)
Bird’s Nest corner is the edge of a bird's nest where the saliva concentration is most saturated. However, it takes a longer time to pre-soak it (about 6 to 8 hours). To make it easier for expansion, it is suggested to cut Bird’s Nest corner from its main body and tear it into pieces first before soaking. Moreover, Bird’s Nest corner has higher expandability than Bird’s Nest cup and has a more refreshing taste.
The efficacy of Bird’s Nests being used to cure diseases has been recorded in “The Essential Notes of Material Medica” (本草备要) by Jian Ang in 1694 and in “The Medicinal Herbs in the Wild” (本经逢原) by Zhang Lu in 1695 of the Qing Dynasty era. Furthermore, a number of scholars and experts have explained in details about the use of bird’s best for food therapy as follows:
《BenCao CongXīn (本草从新)(New Materia Medica)》 Bird’s Nest replenishes vital energy and enhances the lungs – ‘yin’. It reduces cough due to general weakness. It directs body heat to its proper origin and clears the intestines to increase appetite.
《BenCao Qiu Zhen (本草求真) (Materia Medica truth)》 Bird’s Nest brings ‘qi’ to the lungs and nourishes the kidneys. It invigorates the spleen and induces appetite. It provides nutrition without creating extra body heat, and is nourishing without causing indigestion.
《BenCao GangMu ShíYí (本草綱目拾遺) (Compendium of Materia Medica)》 Bird’s Nest tastes sweet and mildly calm in nature, and it reinforces the lungs – ‘yin’, loosens phlegm and reduces coughing. It nourishes the body without causing extra body heat. Therefore, it is the best medicine for regulating general weakness.
In the article of “YanWo Kao (燕窝考)” published in Ming Pao Monthly Magazine (year 1985, issue 231), Professor Jiang Run Xian and Guan Pei Sheng had conducted comprehensive research about bird’s nest, that as early as in the Ming Dynasty (1536), Huang Zhong’s “Hai Yu (海语)” and Tu Ben Jun’s “Min ZhongHai Cuo Shu (闽中海错疏)” (1596) both described Bird’s Nest as luxurious fare. After more than 100 years of consumption and clinical trials, many scholars and experts have confirmed the unique therapeutic value of bird’s nest and it has even been elevated as a kind of tonic with healing efficacies.
According to ancient Chinese literature, Professor Jing Run Xian indicated that Bird’s Nest is potentially able to cure lung diseases. It is especially effective in healing late-stage tuberculosis, stomach ulcers and hemoptysis (coughing of blood) as well as promoting growth development. Chinese University of Hong Kong has also made an in-depth study of the Bird’s Nest and after testing, found that Bird’s Nest contains both Mitogenic Stimulation Factor and Epidermic Growth Factor which can reinforce the immune system, promote metabolism, nourish complexion, stimulate cell growth and reproduction.
Bird’s Nest contains unique bio-active protein molecules and possesses the following functions:
Promotes regeneration of epidermal tissue
Increases cell-induced immune function
Fortifies human body’s tolerance toward damage done by X-rays or other radioactive treatments
Reports showed that the “Mitogenic Stimulation Factor” contained in Bird’s Nest is active at around 80℃. It will lose effectiveness if the stew bird’s nest is heated to high temperature, as its water-soluble proteins will be destroyed, losing its nutritional value. Therefore, remember to apply low heat to stew bird’s nest and keep the temperature inside the stewing mug at around 80℃.
According to registered dietitians’ recommendations, intake of Bird’s Nest has to be regular and consistent to be effective, so as to be in line with the human body’s ability to absorb pro-active protein molecules. Recommended intake:
Consume 1 to 2 bowls on a weekly basis
Consume 1 to 2 tablespoons on a daily basis
PROCEDURE OF SOAKING BIRD’S NEST & HOMEMADE INSTANT BIRD’S NEST RECIPE
When soaking Bird’s Nest, ensure it is entirely immersed in clean water to maximize water absorption. As different varieties of Bird’s Nest may require different soaking durations, it is normal to soak it for about 3 to 24 hours in general before its body mass will expand. Pure, natural Bird’s Nest will expand after soaking and it is common to find remnants of hair feathers after expansion. Simply use tweezers to remove them or rinse the Bird’s Nest several times.
Bird’s Nest Soaking Procedure
Soak bird’s nest with clear water for an appropriate duration, with bird’s nest totally immersed to maximize water absorption. Change the water once or twice during soaking (and do not retain soaked bird’s nest water.)
Place bird’s nest cup on palm and use non-steel pincers to remove hair feathers.
Place soaked bird’s nest in a non-steel strainer to filter the water. Rinse bird’s nest several times and tear off the bird’s nest tissue while washing away impurities with running water. Set aside the bird’s nest.
Pour hot water into steaming pot with the water level sufficiently submerging bird’s nest. You may adjust the bird’s nest concentration according to your preference and taste. When the water surrounding the steaming pot is boiling, put bird’s nest into the steaming pot and let it simmer. Different types of bird’s nest requires different stewing time. Never over-stew the bird’s nest as it will affect the texture and even cause it to liquify eventually.
Homemade instant bird’s nest
Simply wait for the stewed bird’s nest to cool, then pour it in an airtight box and store in refrigerator.
The stewed bird’s nest can be kept for one week in this way.
White Bird’s Nest (白燕盏)
Soak 3 – 4 hours
Stew 30 – 45 mins
Red Bird’s Nest (血燕盏)
Soak 12 hours
Stew 1.5 – 2 hours
Bird’s Nest Corner (燕盏角)
Soak 12 hours
Stew 1.5 – 2 hours
Golden Bird’s Nest (金丝燕盏)
Soak 6 – 8 hours
Stew 45 – 60 mins
Note: For hygiene purposes, please consume bird’s nest with a thoroughly clean spoon. Reheat the bird’s nest when necessary. However, please do not use microwave oven since high temperature will destroy the nutrient of bird’s nest. Bird’s nest cups are classified according to their types and grading. Hence, above suggested stewing timing is just for reference only. Please consult your salesperson when in doubt.
49.9g Multiple proteins - Amide nitrogen, Mono-ammonia-nitrogen, Arginine, Humin, histidine ammonia-nitrogen, lysine ammonia-nitrogen, cysteine ammonia-nitrogen, 30.6g Carbohydrates - hexosamine and similar mucins, 4.9g Iron, 2.5g Inorganic salts - Potassium, Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Phos-phorous, Silica and other micro-nutrients, 1.4g Dietary fibre, 10.7g Others
Source: Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Xin Lin Shi Hua (Historical notes on medicine) and Food ingredients chart