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Swallow's Nest / Bird's Nest

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After doing a cursory search, I found that it isn't as common as I would have thought. Is Swallow's Nest Soup seasonal? Where's a good place to get it if it's available? I have guests coming in from out of town who are quite culinarily adventurous and have this dish in particular in mind.

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  1. It's availability isn't seasonal because bird's nest are a dried imported product. Most upscale Hong Kong style restaurants like Empress Pavillion, NBC, Ocean Star (those types) have it on the menu all the time. It is a delicacy, but as far as taste by itself it has almost none, its usually prepared in a chicken broth based soup.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monku

      If you want some, contact them a few days in advance and ask what they can do with it. The cooks at the aforementioned restaurants may then be able to prepare the Swallow's Nest/Bird's Nest ingredient in different ways. Be prepared to pay premium dollars for it--that's some pretty expensive stuff.

    2. 99 Ranch usually has them and most Chinese markets do as well. They either come dry or suspended in bottles with liquid like gold flakes. From my experience, Swallow's Nest is quite expensive for the quantity you receive, and its either given as gifts for special occasions or cooked in dishes more for its texture and its ability to complement/absorb the flavors of the food/broth it is cooked with. On its own, Swallow's Nest has very little flavor. If you have culinary adventerous friends, the Swallow's Next is exotic in name, but in taste, it will not be too exotic unless it is prepared with other exotic items. monku's suggestion of taking them to one of the large Hong Kong restaurants in SGV may be able to provide a nice gamut of the culinary exotic inclusive of Swallow's Nest.

      BTW, there is an episode of Iron Chef (the original from Japan) where Swallow's Nest was the ingredient of the day. Wow, there was some great preparations there! I would have loved to have been a taster for that show!

      5 Replies
      1. re: zruilong

        Wondering is it an actual bird's nest?

        1. re: Densible

          yes

          1. re: Densible

            "Yes, it is. The swifts build their nests in caves, high up the walls. the nests are made from the birds' saliva and have no taste until taste is added to it by other ingredients. The harvesters use bamboo poles to get the nests down. They put these against the cave walls and climb until they can hook the nests down. then they are take to middle men who clean them and sell them onto stores. This is done in many Asian countries, and they are more expensive than gold per oz." (Taken from answerbag.com)

            On the recent documentary planet earth, they actually show this whole process in the episode on caves. I have to admit that I was less inclined to eat it again after watching the birds make their nests out of their own saliva.

            1. re: brewinphan

              That is fascinating. Thank you.

              1. re: Densible

                Not to mention that there are the left over bugs and other stuff in them.

                But I still eat them. More PROTEIN......

        2. For a cheap version: New Capital Seafood in the old Sam Woo location on Del Mar has a dessert (coconut milk + bird's nest) for around $10 per person

          For the expensive version: Sea Harbour (I'm thinking $50 to $100 per person)

          1. I'm going to need some help from people who know SGV better than I do.

            Across Valley Blvd from the plaza that houses J&J and Mei Long Village there's a little independent structure. It's a little brown building, almost hut-like. The signage is in forest green, and the place inside is your average linoleum and flourescent lights Chinese eatery.

            They sell "medicinal" home eats. There are lots of clay pot dishes, but the most notable things are their interesting desserts. There are frog ovaries, black jelly made from turtle shells, winter gourd juice, and I'm about 80% sure there was swallow's nest too. Anyone?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Pei

              I've eaten there once before. They serve a lot of herbal, "medicinal" soups and entrees, like the ones you mention. It was pretty amazing to me how they could concoct so many of those dishes simply from traditional beliefs in the works of herbs. The place also smelled like one of those herb/acupuncture places..anyways, I remember having a black chicken soup...the broth was very heavy asian herb medicinally-tasting. I didn't take to it, but the place is pretty popular, so I'd say to resolve your curiosity, to try it at least once.

              1. re: chica

                I definitely think it's worth giving a try! We went after lunch just for some desserts, and it was perfect on a cold day. The food smelled good but we'd already eaten.

                Does anyone know the name?

            2. like sharks fin and foie gras, one of the more cruel foods out there. im not trying to be a preacher, just an fyi to those who dont know...

              1 Reply
              1. re: modernist

                The concept of cruel often doesn't enter the psyches of many in the food world. I agree with you - as viewed from a Westerner, I have a hard time with alot of what is demanded for various reasons by so many cultures (including ours), but I guess that's open for debate maybe on another thread... your passion could inspire many...