A few years ago,I met a professor from the food science department in a university from China and asked her something about the swiftlets bird nests products promoted in the market.
Bird Nest Soup (large Version)
She told me although she couldn't say bird nests had no nutrition value but 100% sure that it must have been wildly exaggerated by the companies which produce the associated products or the salespersons who sell them.
Since then, I was no a believer in the products of Bird Nests. However, it is a huge industry in Southeast Asia where Indonesia, Malaysia & Thailand are all major players.
Last February when traveling to Southern Thailand's Hatyai the city is famous for bird nests, I tried my luck for the first time at a specialty products shop. As shown in the photo above, such a bowl of bird nest soup cost me a whopping 450Baht, or ~12 US dollars. Truly speaking, my feel was that the much-hyped bird nest soup is not even better than the sweet white fungus soup. So, no big deal!
Now I thought that Chinese professor could be right, read excerpts from madsci.org which was answering a reader's question What are nutrition values of bird's nest of oriental Collocalia sp.?
Chemical analyses by Massimo Marcone of the University of Guelph found that this bird's nest soup contains a protein similar to one found in eggs. He has found that this can lead to allergies. In fact, in Singapore, birds's nest soup is the leading cause of food allergies!
What you must realize is that this soup is simply hardened bird spit. Saliva is not nutritious, and bird's nest soup is no exception. It does contain some enzymes, salts, and mostly water. The saliva also contains some natural type of antibiotic. There is some research to see if the saliva can be used to control cell division. However, there really is no scientific evidence to justify any nutritional or health claims made for it.
In fact, it can be downright dangerous, as environmental contamination has turned up in bird's nest soup in Vietnam from arsenic. A Vietnamese man was poisoned from arsenic intoxication after consuming bird's nest soup! This was written up in the American Journal of Medical Sciences in April, 1999.
Oh, I probably would never buy expensive bird nests products again!
Scroll down for more pictures showing packed bird nests being sold At a Specialty Products Shop in Hatyai, Thailand