Bird’s Nest is known as caviar of the East for its best rare food only for royalty like connoisseur in the East. It is as precious as caviar. Initially known as Swallow Nest, it was first consumed in China more than 1,500 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. It was considered as rare royal food. Chinese traditional medicine later on confirmed benefits to health and youth after a long record of real efficacy. There are countless interesting stories about this expensive delicacy. It is a ‘must take’ food for pregnant woman and mother as well as for people recovered from sickness or operation. In China, it is usually prepared to impress inlaws or even business associates. I recalled my grandmother in spending long hours to double boil her bird nest soup. Even now, when I go for any hospital visits to friends, a basket of bird nest is generally the most appropriate gift.
Expat Life sat down with Ivy Chau-Soonthornsima, Partner from PrimaNest to learn more about this superfood and its wonders. Chinese have long believed in the visible and tangible health benefits of bird’s nest consumption. Let us explore how this superfood claims to shorten patient recovery time, boasting an “elixir” effect in rejuvenating the skin and giving a more youthful appearance.
Bird’s Nest phenomenon
Ivy explained, “Today with advance scientific technology, bird nest has been tested and proven of its benefits. There are hundreds of reports done by scientist in many countries, which finally explained the myths about Bird nest to the new generation.”
She further elaborated, “Today, bird nest benefits are no longer a myth. Modern science identifies the key ingredient in bird nest as “Glycoprotein”. This so called “super protein” is a principal substance the human body can produce, but regresses over time due to ageing and illness. “Glycoprotein” can be found in abundance in Swiftlets’ nests, which are made from the bird’s saliva. In the past, no scientific explanation can be made on the health benefits of the people who consume bird nest, as Glycoprotein was not known until its discovery, which garnered a Nobel Prize in 1994. Glycoproteins in bird nest are enriched in EGF (Epidermal Cell Growth Factor), Sialic acid and 19 other types of amino acids.”
A good bowl of bird’s nest soup in a restaurant may cost over 1,000B. Different grades of ready to drink bottles range from 100 to 500B. What exactly is this bird’s nest? Ivy described, “Bird’s nest refers to the saliva produced by the Swiftlet birds, while making its nest. The saliva acts as glue, pasted to form a thin flaky wall in the nest. When the saliva comes in contact with air, it hardens and a white bird’s nest cup is formed. The entire process takes around 30 days.”
Bird’s nest can be classified into Cave Nest, House Nest and Grass Nest. They are then grouped further into White Nest, Golden Nest and Red Nest. Cave bird’s nests are mainly harvested from natural caves in the states South of Thailand. The harvesters often face considerable danger when harvesting these bird nests. Since free, naturally living Swiftlet forms cave bird nests, some people consider them to be more valuable than bird’s nests found in houses. Thus, cave bird nests often fetch a higher price as compared to house bird nest. It is important to know that cave nest or house nest are from the same Collocalia specie thus it has the same bioactive value from the glycoprotein which is the main content.
Tips in consuming this superfood
Bird’s nest contains glycoprotein and amino acid and is rich in mineral content such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, carbohydrate, iron and iodine. These nutrients have many benefits to the body, such as improve metabolism, tissue and cell growth; and enrich vital energy. Experts have concluded that bird’s nests have three main functions in enhancing the rebirth of cells and tissues, improving the immune system and strengthening the body health and accelerate recovery from illness.
More questions to ask our expert, “How often can I eat bird nest? Can I eat too much bird nest? When is the best time to consume bird nest?”
Ivy advised, “Bird nest can be consumed daily. An average person can consume anything 3 to 5 grammes of dried bird nest. The body will discharge any excess consumption. It is best to take a spoon of bird nest in the morning when the body is fresh and the stomach is empty, ready to take full benefit of bird nest. It is also best before sleep, as the rich antioxidants will help the body to eradicate free radicals as the body heals during our sleep. Empress Dowager of China had been consuming bird nest before bedtime as a royal ritual.”
Ready to go and easy to eat
In the old days, my grandmother would buy dried bird nest. The cooking process was long with soaking in water, picking the feathers, and slowly double boiled to make the soup. Now, ready to drink bottles are stock on shelves in the supermarkets. The question is “Are manufactured bottles as nutritious as home-cooked version?” Ivy clarified, “Yes, ready made bottles contain the same nutritional value. The old way of preparing your own dried bird nest may easily result in overcooking or burnt. The “modernised” factory way is safer and more hygienic. For example, here in PrimaNest with our factory in the South of Thailand, our procedure involves handpicking the feathers by mineral water. The process is 100% pure with no addictive or preservative. The way we “de-germ” is at 105 degrees of boiling water which is not possible to do at home.”
The miracle of bird’s nest on skincare
Apart from being an edible food, bird’s nest has been applied to skin dermatology use. Ivy clarified, “To understand the benefits that bird nest can work on our skin, we need to first be acquainted with EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) which can be found in human cells. Normally, the human body can produce EGF, but its capacity usually subsides with age or pollution. EGF stimulates cell proliferation, differentiation and development. With this efficacy there has been endeavour to extract EGF from various plants to produce a premium skincare line without realising that EGF is abundant in natural bird nest. And it is this EGF in the bird nest, which contains properties, and structural characteristics most similar to those found in human body. Bird nest extract cosmetic contains EGF and Sialic acid that helps restore skin cell from within, prevents fine lines, acne, comedones (black/whiteheads), freckles, and other types of blemishes.”
After learning the benefits of this wonder food, I shall pursue the ancient Chinese royal ritual to have a spoonful of bird nest before bedtime, and put on a bird nest facial mask to sleep!