Spotting the Real deal
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), bird’s nest is commonly consumed as a beauty food and has been valued for having beneficial health properties such as boosting the immune system and stimulating cell growth and tissue repair. Though many are aware of the benefits of bird’s nest, and how highly priced they are, most are unaware of how to choose bird’s nest and to differentiate quality ones from fakes.
The bird’s nests displayed in stores or packaging have come a long way, namely undergoing a labour intensive cleaning process. Bird’s nest which are just taken down are very dirty and smelly. Nobody will think of consuming them at all if they see the condition.
The Different Grades
The highest grade of bird’s nest is the purest as it is 90% edible upon harvesting and requires the least amount of processing and cleaning to have it consumption-ready. Bird’s nest of this grade have thicker strands, stronger aroma when cooked, and are often white, gold, or blood-red in colour.
Nests that are 50% and 10% edible upon harvesting fall respectively under the second and third grade – and their prices range accordingly. The nests of these grades bear a crispier consistency when cooked as the fibres are less compact.
Things to consider
Here are a few criteria to consider when choosing bird’s nest:
Size and volume
The most popular shapes are boat or spoon shape. If swiftlets build their nests on the corner of two walls, the shape of the nest will become triangular. This change in shape has no effect on the nutritional value. Wider and thicker bird’s nest cups are of high quality.
Colour and purity
White bird’s nests are slightly ivory in colour. Yellow bird’s nests are slightly 'beige’ or ‘golden’. Red (blood) bird’s nests are red in colour due to the red cave wall’s mineral deposition into the nest. If the bird’s nest is extremely white, it may have been bleached, which greatly reduces the nutrition content. Cleaned high-quality bird’s nest should be in natural colour, without any soil, sand and moss.
- Density and volume after soaking
If threads are thinner and closer, gaps are few, and the size is large and thicker, bird’s nest cups will expand more after soaking. The different grades have different expansion ratios. The greater the expansion.
Here's a cheat list for you
In Summary, good bird’s nest should possess one or more of these following traits:
- Fine and firm texture
- Thick and big size, boat-shaped
- Slight fishy smell
- Dry to the touch (little moisture content)
- Minimal amount of feathers
- Smaller edge size