Mon 27 Oct, 2003 08:50 am
Watched an episode of Iron Chef on the Food Network, they used an ingredient I have never heard of and couldn't discern. What is the stuff they were using? Swallow's Nest????
Swallow's Nest is...
Apparently, it is just that... a swallow's nest... I was wondering the same thing after seeing that episode of the Iron Chef.
I found this explanation somehow through "about.com"... (http://chinesefood.about.com/library/bltrivia33.htm)
Authentic bird's nest soup is made using the nests of the swiftlet, a tiny bird found throughout southeast Asia. The swiftlet lives in dark caves, using a method of echolocation similar to the bat to get around. Instead of twigs and straw, the swiftlet makes its nest from strands of its own gummy saliva, which hardens when exposed to air. Humans who harvest the swiftlet nests often come from families that have made their living this way for generations. Prying the nests from the cave walls is extremely dangerous, and many harvesters die each year.
Once the nests are harvested, they are cleaned and sold to restaurants, where they are served simmered in chicken broth. While I have never tried authentic bird's nest soup, apparently it is an acquired taste - many westerners think it tastes quite rubbery the first time they try it. However it is quite popular throughout Asia, perhaps because it has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. It is also costly; many western restaurants serve a less expensive version consisting of soup with noodles shaped to resemble a bird's nest.
This must have been one popular Iron Chef....this is I think the fourth inquiry regarding swallow's (or bird's) nest. There are different grades of nest as well, the best being whole, perfectly cleaned nests, and it goes on down to pieces with detritus in them still that need to be picked out. Like many ingredients in Oriental cuisine, swallow's nest is prized more for it's texture and supposed health benefits than for it's flavour. Next to shark's fin, it is one of the most pricey of Chinese ingredients.
I guess the swallow's nest stuff is actually a swallow's nest. They are made by the swallows in these really big caves in Asia, where people build tall, rickidy ladders to get the things. They are made out of spit I think, which is really gross, though not as sickening as the cost of the thing. How much did they spend on Iron Chef? $24,000 or something like that? maybe it was yen...
While I don't the exact amount, Iron Chef has a HUGE food budget.
I had the same question - I thought it was some kind of seafood, but it's actually real swallow's nests. Check out this link:
In the event anyone else visits this thread, the Iron Chef using Swallow's Nest was on again last night, August 26, 2005. It was true that they spent $24,000 on the ingredient, and also true that along with shark's fin and sea cucumber, they are the most expensive and most "luxurious" Chinese food items.