Saturday, 23 July 2011

Esculent swallows?

Swallow's nests are a delicacy in China and Hong Kong. Used in soup, they are said to be everything from immunity-boosting to aphrodisiac and are thus highly-prized and expensive. If that's what your after, head to Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan where you'll find shop after shop of the things.

The 'nest' is actually a small crusty-looking cup made of the bird's saliva. The red nests, purportedly containing blood, are the most valuable of all. The nests were traditionally harvested in caves in South East Asia, now purpose-built houses like gigantic dovecotes attract the birds to nest in Sumatra.

Meanwhile, along King's Road in Hong Kong, tucked away under a cantilevered shophouse building, the real thing was taking place this week. It must have taken some pretty strong saliva to stick this whopper to the wall...

Three cheers for Mother Nature!

All content © 2011 Emilie Pavey


  1. The edible bird nest comes from swiftlets in Southeast Asia, not the common Barn Swallow in your fourth photo. Barn Swallow's nest is made from mud and is not suitable for human consumption. The Chinese use the same character for swiftlet and swallow, so the confusion.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out - I realised that it wasn't the exact same species when researching this piece but deliberately decided to leave things vague in order to be able to make the humorous link between the pictures! Clearly too, the barn swallow's nest is not made from saliva! However, I made an assumption that I have just realised is false - that swiftlets and swallows were of the same family of birds, and while writing this response I have just realised this is not the case, despite similarities in nesting and appearance
    so I have learned something thanks to you! Apologies for the confusion.