Sunday, April 12, 2009
I bought these swiftlets bird's nest from Sabah where the price is considerably lower than if you were to buy them from reputable medicinal halls in Singapore. There are various grades of bird's nest depending on when the nest was harvested. The first harvest is considered the best and subsequently the 3rd harvest is the lowest grade as the then exhausted birds doesn't produce as much nutrients as when it built it's 1st nest. Also the 3rd harvest is done when the baby birds have left the nest and hence the nest is considerably dirtier and requires more work to clean before it can be consumed.
Nest built on the walls of caves are also considerably more expensive than nests built in man-made houses which are used to attract the swiftlets to build their nests. It is believed that the natural caves imparts certain amount of minerals to the nests as compared to none from the wooden planks in houses. This might have accounted for the varying colors in the cave nests as different minerals are deposited on the nests.
Bird's nests should be kept in a cool dry place. Bird's nests dries up during storage and so large quantity shouldn't be bought and kept for a long time. Usual quantity is about 1 qian which is about 7-8 pieces of nests. Each piece when cooked can provide enough quantity for about 7 days of consumption. I usually cook one piece each time and that will last me for 1 week and I will cook this once a month. Once cooked, I will leave it to cool and store it in a glass bottle and kept in the fridge.
Cooking bird's nest is simple. For the type of nests in the pictures, soak the nest overnight and tear the nest apart while removing any dirt or impurities, if any, embedded in the nest. Place the shredded nest into a double-boil container (typically made of porcelein), add a lump of rock sugar and topped up with water. Place the container in a pot and fill the pot with water up to about half the height of the container. Boil using a small fire for 4 hours.
The cooked bird's nest will give out a fragrance similar to boiled eggs. Consume a piece of bird's nest first thing in the morning after waking up and before consuming anything else.