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Bird’s Nest Soups

Bird's Nest Soup - Susan Wenger
What kind of bird makes the nests for bird's nest soup? - Marshall Rafferty

Bird's Nest Soup - Susan Wenger
1-3/4 ounces cleaned bird's nest (see note below)
2 cups water
2 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a 25-cent piece
4 cups Chinese chicken Soup Stock (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
2 eggs, beaten
ham, cut julienne, very fine, for garnish
Soak the bird's nest overnight in fresh water. Using a fine mesh strainer drain and rinse the nest. Place in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water and the ginger slices. Simmer for 5 minutes and drain in the strainer, discarding the ginger. Pick out any impurities and add to the soup stock and simmer for 1/2 hour.
Stir in the cornstarch mixed with water and cook to thicken. Add salt to taste and pour the beaten eggs in a thin stream over the top of the soup. Count to ten and gently stir the eggs into the soup. The shredded-ham garnish will go nicely on the top of this very delicately flavored soup.
A good Chinese market should have nests available (or perhaps they will order for you), but they are very expensive. The cost for enough nests to make two batches of this soup will be somewhere between $30 and $40.

Chinese Chicken Soup Stock
5 pounds chicken backs and necks
2 slices fresh ginger, each the size of a 25-cent piece
2 Chinese dried turnip balls (preserved turnip or preserved radish) coarsely chopped and rinsed with fresh
Place the bones in a 12-quart stockpot and cover with water. On high heat bring the bones barely to a simmer. We do not want to cook the soup yet so do not let it do more than just simmer. Foam and scum will form on the top of the pot. You do not want this to boil. Drain the bones, discarding the water, and rinse well with cold water. Add 1 quart of fresh water for each pound of bones, along with the ginger and rinsed dried turnip. Bring to a simmer and cook 1 hour, uncovered.
Strain the soup stock and discard the solids. Remove the fat by using a plastic tube or simply chill the stock overnight and remove the fat when it has congealed.

What kind of bird makes the nests for bird's nest soup? - Marshall Rafferty
From Science Q & A: Edible Nests
November 14, 1995
Edible Nests
By C. Claiborne RAY
The edible nest swiftlet, Collacali fuciphaga, of Southeast Asia, takes its name from the nests used in the soup. These birds make small nests almost entirely of strands of hardened saliva, according to "Ornithology," by Frank B. Gill (W.H. Freeman and Company). The nests are affixed to nearly inaccessible spots on cave walls and ceilings.
The Chinese consider soup made from the nests to be a great delicacy and they are harvested by the thousand, often, unfortunately, before the two or three eggs have hatched and the nestlings have matured. The few feathers or droppings are carefully cleaned from the nests and the strands are rinsed and soaked until what remains resembles, by one account, small sponges rather than nests. The soup, which often has bits of chicken or other meat in addition to the translucent strands of nest, has a gelatinous consistency. The strands can also be dried for year-round use.
The swiftlets are shades of dove gray and grow about five inches long. They live on coasts and islands and feed over forest and scrub. They range from the Anaman and Nicobar Islands through Southeast Asia to the Philippines, often forming colonies of thousands of nests.
Edible nest swiftlets navigate deep inside dark caves to build their nests by using the same echolocation techniques that bats use, bouncing high-frequency sounds off the cave walls, according to The Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia.
Pollution and overharvesting have cut the population and made the nests an expensive delicacy. In Hong Kong, the price passed $1,000 a pound for top-quality nests in the late 1980s. A related bird makes "black" nests, containing feathers and other wastes, that are difficult to clean. These are sold to less exacting or more impecunious gourmets.
Most of the nests harvested today are taken from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and China. In Sarawak, the nests from limestone caves in Niah in the northern part of the country are harvested only under license from the Sarawak Museum, which is charged with preserving both the birds and the prehistoric cave paintings that decorate their homes.
The nesting season there runs from March until May; by August, the nests are considered to be free of eggs and hatchlings and fair game for harvesters. By the light of candles, they stand on spindly bamboo platforms in the caves and use knives on the ends of bamboo poles to dislodge the nests.
Short-tailed and long-winged, all swift species have highly developed flying abilities and eat, drink and even copulate while flying. They have tiny legs, seldom walk and cannot perch, but cling to vertical surfaces. Other swifts also use salivary fluids from special glands to glue nests together and attach them to walls.