Last Saturday we were invited by the lovely fellow foodie Sayuri to partecipate to a foodie event in Singapore all dedicate to bird’s nest. As the Italian half of Blender and Basil, I actually had never heard of bird’s nest, so I had to do some research to find out what it was all about. My friends and fellow foodies understood that I was talking about bird’s nest drink, which is very popular in Singapore and described it as a very sweet, very refreshing tonic with some gelatinous bits inside that makes its texture interesting. But when I visited the World of Birdnest Museum on Saturday, I soon found out there is a lot more to bird’s nest than just a derivative drink.
Just to clarify, what we are talking about is swiftlets’ real nest (yes, it is basically swiftlet’s saliva), traditionally harvested in various areas across the South East Asian region (especially Malaysia and Indonesia). Traditionally, it’s found in steep caves and harvesting it can be so dangerous that the people risk their lives in the harduous task! This is probably what has made it traditionally exclusive and expensive. Another reason is that there aren’t many species of swiflets that produce a bird’s nest that is up to 90% eadible, there is only one species, making the genuinly nutricious bird’s nests out there harder to find.
World of Birdnest Museum
As well as found in the wild, bird’s nest can also be house-nested, and at the World of Birdnest Museum they show the distinction between the two types. I honestly think that after a glance at how they harvest the wild bird’s nest, you have enough material to go for the house-nested. But of course, beyond that, the house nests are a lot cleaner for the consumer, as they are not exposed to other animals and insects; and a lot safer for the birds – as they are only harvested after the eggs are layed and the young swiflets are fully independent and ready to fly.
What does it tastes like? Our food competition at the museum.
Once the bird’s nest is double boiled, it’s ready to be tasted in your favourite recipe. Taken on its own, its taste is very bland, while its comforting characteristic comes from the texture. I can imagine a soup with bird’s nest would be very soothing and delicious, and that is the way it is traditionally consumed in China. To promote its consumption in everyday dishes, the Bird’s nest World Museum has organised this event where foodies based in Singapore have a tour and discover about bird’s nest and then implement this precious ingredient in a chosen recipe.
Throughout the article you can see photos of the creations of Singapore food bloggers, such as Miss Teatime_sg, who made a delicious coconut drink with bird’s nest; Vanessa_Kou, who made a bird’s nest and papaya dessert; @ahgongahmajiak, who created a scrumptious bird’s nest avocado milkshake; Ms Hannah Chia , who gave us a taste of bird’s nest rice porridge; Fat Clay,who patiently put together a morning crème brulee with rum, bird’s nest and mint; and the lovely Curious Book Reviewer who experimented with bird’s nest, smoked salmon and Japanese mayo! I, on the other hand, made a Mojito, to which bird’s nest added a yummy jelly texture.
The price for delicacy
While we have plenty of purposed built nesting houses for swiftlets to safely create their nest and offer it to hungry humans, bird’s nest is still a rather expensive item to add to your ingredients cupboard, with one pack of bird’s nest costing SGD 40.00. Rich in his tradition value and believed to have great beenfits, bridnest is slowly becoming less used in Asia, and because of its price, it is understandable that a few people can add it to their everyday cooking.