A history of: Bird’s Nest Soup


Everyone likes soup don’t they? 

And amongst soup fans, surely bird’s nest soup has to rank as the most highly sought after.

Doesn’t mean it’s the nicest of course… that would be Campbell’s spicy tomato soup.

But in terms of how difficult it is to get, bird’s nest soup wins by a country mile. After all, no one has to risk their life to gather tomatoes do they?

Bird’s nest soup is one of the most famous delicacies in Chinese cuisine and is said to help people preserve their youth – because of the high collagen content. Which just shows that the Chinese have worked out that some people will swallow anything… including birds nest soup presumably.

The main ingredient for the soup is quite literally a bird’s nest – but not one that involves twigs, that would be weird. No, instead it is made from the gummy saliva of the swiftlet bird which it uses to fashion into a nest – hardening into a tightly woven hammock like structure when exposed to air.

The endangered swiftlet spends most of its life in caves, where it relies on echo location, like a bat, to find its way around in the darkness. And the highly prized nests can be found stuck to the upper reaches of the caves. 

Collectors have to risk their lives by using a narrow and worryingly wobbly ladder to reach the nests.

Birds nest soup has been part of Chinese cuisine for many generations – with references being made to the delicacy during the Ming Dynasty. The nests come in three varieties, white, yellow and red (the most sought after).

It is usually served as a sweet dessert soup, combined with rock sugar and is said to have a texture like softened gelatin – which is exactly what you would expect a soup made from bird spittle to taste like I suppose.