At one time, this delicacy killed.
Rural peasants fell from great heights trying to retrieve the cliff nests of the Aerodramus fuciphagus aka "salagne" a small bird that spins its nest out of gummy, protein-rich saliva.
Today, the nests are harvested in indoor aviaries, where breeders collect them up to four times a year. Depending on the market, a single kilogram sells for as much as US$3,000.
In feudal Vietnam, bird's nest was considered a luxury item, to be served at royal banquets. Nowadays, it is considered a delicacy to be enjoyed by the well-heeled.
Luxurious hotels and restaurants around Ho Chi Minh City usually serve up bird's nests as a refreshing dessert and a main course. Sweet soups float the nests in milk and a mix of lotus seeds, mung beans and pumpkin.
In addition, these bird's nests are combined with sea cucumber, crab and chicken in savory stews.
As demand for the delicacy has increased, bird's nests have been popularized as a home-cooked meal. It's rather easy to prepare.
Bird's nest soup:
Soup: VND190,000- 290,000/bowl
Sweet soup: VND180,000- 380,000/bowl
For cave nests:
- 3g: VND176,000 - 5g: VND286,000
- 50g: VND2,860,000 - 100g: VND5,698,000
For house nests:
- 50g: VND1,815,000 - 50g: VND2,090,000
(Prices offered by Yen Sao Khanh Hoa Restaurant)
Bird's nests usually require some additional cleaning when you get them home from market. Keep a pair of tweezers handy to remove any bird fuzz.
Soak the nests for around 30 minutes until soft. The nests will begin to loosen into thin, noodle-like strands.
Continue soaking the nests, changing the water until it runs clear.
Next steam the nests. Steaming is considered the best way to maintain the food item's various nutritional properties.
Bird's nests are known to contain high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Traditionally the nests are believed to aid digestion, raise libido, strengthen the voice, alleviate asthma, improve focus, and bolster the immune system.
Bird's nest dishes can be eaten at any time of day, hot or cold.
According to those who are experts on the subject, nests keep for four to five years if properly stored. For best results, the nests should be eaten three times a week on an empty stomach.
You can enjoy bird's nest dishes at the following restaurants in HCMC:
36-38 Ly Tu Trong St., Dist. 1
97 Ham Nghi St., Dist. 1
Windsor Plaza Hotel, 18 An Duong Vuong St., Dist. 5
Yen Sao Khanh Hoa
350 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St., Dist. 3