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Fresh edible bird's nest on wooden table.

How to Judge birdnest quality

In the market, there are many fancy names for bird nest, like Jing Si Yan, or Imperial golden Bird nest, irregardless of their names, the key to the quality of the bird’s nest requires four indicators, the shape, color, cleanliness, and taste, not the fancy name.

Colour

Off White/slightly yellowish – more pure and without minerals from cave walls or farm walls, suitable for all, harvest from farm house.

Red- It is not red from the swiftlets’ blood, but from mineral absorption from certain caves, may be harmful rather than beneficial to human beings. they are actually due to minerals absorbed from the cave or from oxidation.

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Classification by pre-cleaning quality

Type of edible bird’s nest prior to cleaning processing.

1) Premium (Aerodramus Fuciphagus) nests – Consist of 95% saliva and 5% feathers Provides the best nourishing effect to human bodies and has higher nutritional value than other categories bird nest. It produces aroma of eff white after cooking. Texture is smooth and soft.

2) Feather prime nests – Consist of 50% saliva and 50% feathers Effect is less prominent compared to saliva nest. Produces a crispier texture after stewing.

3) Grass nests – Consist of 5% saliva with grass and twigs Cheaper and thus welcomed by beginners. Textures is soft and smooth. Since the nests are built by saliva and grass, the nests contain little fiber of fresh grass.

 

Classification by Terrain

Edible bird’s nests are harvested from only two types of terrain shown below:

1) House Nest – Swifts build their nests inside a house located near to the sea where the environment is ideal and more controlled; therefore leading to fewer impurities and feathers in the bird’s nest.

2) Cave Nest – Swifts build their nests on mountain and rock caves and cliffs near the sea. The natural climate and environment affects the texture which tends to be stiffer and harder. But generally cave nests contain more foreign materials and feathers than house nests.

Classification by Shape and Size

Being a natural food product, edible bird’s nest come in many different shapes and sizes. Since it is created by Swiftlets, the shapes are organic and irregular. If you come across those are that are consistent in shape and size, most probably those nest are being molded into a bowl shape using broken nest.  Avoid those because chemicals may be use to mold them.

1) Cup – Whole nest that ranges from large to extra large size (top grade).

2) Triangle – Triangular shaped bird’s nest that are medium in size.

3) Strips – Broken pieces from whole bird’s nest,

4) Cakes – Tiny bird’s nest pieces that are shaped into the shape and size of a biscuit.

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Bird Nest Classification by Country of Origin

Edible bird’s nest only originate from South East Asia.

1) Indonesia – Texture is smoother, softer and cleaner with fewer impurities as the majority of the nests are harvested from Indonesia’s house nests. Indonesia produces approximately 80% of the world’s supply.

Kalimantan –  Kalimantan birdnest is whiter and cleaner due to the rainy season and the farm house are located close to the sea. The price is also the highest among all the other region in Indonesia.

Java/Semarang – Java Nest is more yellowish in colour and contains more impurities like feathers and egg shell (which requires more effort in cleaning) because of the hot weather. 

 2) Thailand – These birds nests are thicker and firmer with higher density thus it requires more soaking and cooking time. As the majority of the nests are cultivated from the caves with a small production volume, the prices are generally higher.

3) Malaysia – With higher production of feather prime nests bird’s nest, bird’s nest from Malaysia are usually processed into cakes and prices are low.

4) Vietnam – These bird’s nest are higher quality and richer taste and aroma due to an ideal environment conditions for bird’s nest in Vietnam. Bird’s nest here are limited in supply and prices are higher.

 

Cooking Duration

There is a misconception that bird nest that turns to water easily are faked. This is completely wrong. Birdnest are swiftlet saliva, naturally, they should be easily turn into liquid. In fact, those that requires longer cooking time are signs that the nest are added with preservative, making it harder to soften it. Our nest only requires 1-2 hours soaking in water and 30-45 minutes double boiling 

What is Jin Si Yan?

Jin Si yan is essentially house nest that was kept longer in the farm than the rest of the nest. Reason could be the there are eggs or baby swiftlets  still in the nest, so farmer will wait until they left the nest before harvesting. The nest is exposed in the environment longer therefore giving it the golden colour. Prices are generally higher. Some unethical  merchant will resort in dying it with coloring and sell for a better profit. Taste and nutritional value wise, it is about the same. It is definitely not worth the money for paying a premium just for the color.

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Farm harvested Bird Nest vs Cave-harvested Bird’s Nest

Due to scarcity and labour intensive in harvesting, cave birdnest are usually higher in prices compare to house nest. But do you know that cave-harvested Bird’s Nest contain many impurities due to the uncontrolled cave environment. Especially there are many nocturnal animal like bats that co exist, therefore there is always a risk of unwanted substances in those nest, making them harder to clean.

There are many cases of bleaching to give it the pristine “white” colour while speeding up the cleaning process. Besides, cave bird nest are exposed to the risk of heavy metals contamination from external environmental factors. So, consume cave bird’s nest at your own risk! 

Red Bird Nest

A few common misconception of red bird nest is that the blood from swiftlets are mix with saliva and the result is a crimson-colored liquid.  Another explanation is the swiflet’s diet. Lotus flower seed, a common plant found in caves, have a dark red hue to them. As the swallow snack on it, it mixes with the their saliva, thereby giving their nest red in color.

 

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The facts

Now that the edible bird’s nest industry is a multi-billion-dollar economy, scientists have taken notice and conducted multiple studies about the health benefits of bird’s nests as well as the origins of their colors. The most recent studies have shown that actual blood bird’s diet don’t have anything to do with the crimson-colored edible bird’s nest. Research proves that the nests get their color from common chemical reactions from the environment such as iron from the cave walls, dirty waters and poisons.

Since their caves tend to be saturated with humidity, the water and oxygen in the air mix with the minerals from the rocks and form a sort of “rust” that gives the nest its dazzling color. Other studies have explored the idea of the nests gaining their color by way of chemical reactions involving sodium nitrate derived from a mix of the bird’s droppings, urine and other environmental materials.

Hence, “blood bird nest” may be harmful rather than beneficial to human beings.

 

Hi Tang house harvested Bird Nest are located in rural location surrounded by clean and fresh air results in top quality Birds Nest where swiftlets are allowed to roam free and build their Bird’s Nest resulting in minimal impurities, often being at least 95-98% edible upon harvesting.