What is swallow's nest?
February 14, 2005 8:53 PM   Subscribe

FoodFilter: What is swallow's nest? I was watching an episode of Iron Chef where something called swallow's nest was used in a dessert, and I have no idea what it is. It looks like a gelatinous noodle. The only somewhat promising result on Google is that it's the spit from a swallow, but I'm not sure of the source. Does anyone have more info?
posted by smich to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the host of Splendid Table, addresses this in the second question here.

"Yup, swallow's nest is the real thing, and both a delicacy and health tonic in China. Most prized are white nests from the East Asian tropics (selling for $100 plus). As birds build their nests they bind together twigs and grasses with a gelatinous saliva. In China, that gelatinous quality and rarity lend the bird's nest its reputation as a health aid."
posted by milkrate at 9:01 PM on February 14, 2005

Swallow's Nest is considered a delicacy in China.

"Swallows or swifts make nests by regurgitating gelatinous substances, or the saliva. The nests are called swallow's nest. It is also referred to as bird's nest. Swallow is the bird Collocalia fuciphaga (Edible-nest Swiftlet), belonging to the Apodidae family and many other birds of the same breed. Swallow's nest consumption has been known by the Chinese for thousands of years, and people especially those riches love it and consider it as one of the most precious tonic food they can have. As a food and a tonic, it is said to be highly nourishing, containing with elements which can stimulate cell and epidermal growth. If the swallow's nest is taken regularly, so the tradition says, the skin will be glowing and delicate. Swollow's nest is also good for the eyes. It is beneficial to the elderly and those who have just recovered from illness." [Source]
posted by ericb at 9:02 PM on February 14, 2005

On preview: what milkrate said.
posted by ericb at 9:02 PM on February 14, 2005

(I meant the last question on the page, not the second)
posted by milkrate at 9:04 PM on February 14, 2005

argh. on preview: too slow.
if the bird spit thing bothers you, a pretty good substitute can be made by tossing some soaked snow fungus into a blender. the texture is nearly indistinguishable if you get the cooking time right and there isn't much flavor to speak of in either case.
posted by juv3nal at 9:09 PM on February 14, 2005

I've had swallow's nest canned drink before (but didn't crack open the swallow nest + white fungus drink) and it's pretty much like you'd expect. Mucus-y globs floating in syrup water. No discernable taste from the swallow spit but a little too much like phlegm for me.
posted by noisia at 1:10 AM on February 15, 2005

Harvesting bird's nests is a fairly important industry in some places, like Sarawak. I have seen pictures and descriptions of big caves laced with spindly bamboo ladders going high up the walls, so workers could reach the nests.

An aside: If they care, Asian grocers are going to have to come up with a different name before many Americans will eat 'fungus'.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:47 AM on February 15, 2005

If they care, Asian grocers are going to have to come up with a different name before many Americans will eat 'fungus'.

Yeah, something catchy like "Quorn"...
posted by letourneau at 4:26 AM on February 15, 2005

There is a pizza place in my old home town that lists fungus as one of the toppings instead of mushrooms. According to the owner it's a wildly popular choice even though they are just plain white mushrooms.
posted by Mitheral at 6:47 AM on February 15, 2005

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