A swallow’s nest is made of íts saliva and has been proved to contain high nutritional value that are good for health of people of all ages.
Prof Nguyễn Duy Thịnh, a researcher, said a swallow’s nest contains indispensable protein and amino acids such as Arginine, Leucine, Phenylalamine, Threonine and Valine, which can help prevent disease and bolster recovery of people’s health.
He said recent research has shown that swallow’s nest can help treat cancer, prevent high blood pressure, fight against viruses, slow down the ageing process, brighten skin, reduce wrinkles, stimulate collagen, and enhance sex capabilities.
There are various species of swallows. Some species make nests with their feathers, while some others make nests with grass or straws. Two species of swallow, namely Aerodramus fuciphagus and Aerodramus maximus, make nests with their saliva, which can be used as food.
|Swallow's nest can be used for various dishes. Photo thuongyen.com
Swallows start to make nests to prepare for giving birth between the end of March and mid-May. They spend 33-35 days making the nests, which are in form of the bowls attached to caves in nature, or walls in houses built for swallows.
The swallows spit out saliva to create thin layers of silk threads to make their nests.
When they complete the nests, swallows start to mate and lay eggs. Each female swallow lays two eggs within one to four days. Some 22-26 days later, the eggs hatch into baby swallows who will leave the nest after 40-45 days. Father and mother swallows take turns to incubate the eggs and seek food to nurture the babies.
Based on a swallow’s behavior patterns, people often harvest their nests in one of three periods: 1) when the nests are just completed and swallows have not laid the eggs yet. When the swallows discover that their nests are stolen, they will make new ones. The nests at this moment are often smaller than those in later periods.
2) When the swallow mothers lay the eggs and the eggs have not hatched yet. The nests at this moment are bigger and clear from impurities. But the harvesting will affect the number of babies that hatch.
|Soup of swallow's nest with chicken is a good starter. Photo yenngoctam.com.vn
3) When the baby swallows grow up and leave the nests. This manner of harvesting will protect the number of swallows and reduce the negative impact on their lives. Parent swallows will make new nests for the next season. However, swallow nests in this period may have lots of impurities such as feathers or droppings as the baby swallows grow up in the nest.
There are islands where swallows make nests on the cliffs in natural caves such as in Phú Yên and Khánh Hòa provinces. In the past few years, people in coastal cities have built houses for swallows to make nests such as in Nha Trang. Houses are designed nearly the same as natural caves so that swallows can flock to make nests. This mass harvesting helps reduce the price of swallow nests.
Chef Nguyễn Anh Tuấn from a restaurant specialising in dishes from swallow's nests in Nha Trang said raw swallow’s nests smell like eggwhites.
“To get rid of this smell, add some slices of ginger to the dish,” he said. “Ginger will enhance the flavour of the food, warm up the coldness of the swallow’s nest. If you don’t like the smell of both ginger and of raw swallow’s nest, then you should use processed swallow’s nest, which has been cleansed, dried and is convenient for cooking.”
Chef Tuấn suggests some delicacies that use swallow’s nest.
Chicken soup with swallow’s nest
It’s a perfect starter for a luxurious party, in which you can feel the crispness of the swallow’s nest absorbing the fatty chicken broth. Chicken meat should be shredded to highlight the dish.
“Chicken bone should be boiled properly to create a rich broth,” Tuấn said. “When cool, both swallow’s nest and chicken can taste fishy. Some slices of ginger can keep the dish delicious even when it get cooler."
Tuấn said chicken soup with swallow’s nest is a popular dish but it can be chosen by the most demanding gourmets.
“A bowl of such soup can contain up to 20 flavours from ingredients but no flavour should overcome that of the swallow’s nest,” he said.
Swallow's nest stew with medicinal herbs
This is the most typical dish in menus of noted chefs, which is served as a main course in a party. In order to prepare the broth, chefs should stew black chicken and use 15 ingredients to create the scent of gingseng, goji berry, red jujube, mushroom and smoked pork, which are all suitable to enhance the flavour of swallow’s nest.
|Swallow's nest stew with medicinal herbs and black chicken is nutritious for sick people. Photo shoptoyennn.com
Swallow’s nest stew with lotus seed, red jujube and dry longan
A snack or dessert stew with rock sugar can sooth the stomach of diners who like dishes from swallow’s nest. The soft well-stewed lotus seeds served with cruspy strings of swallow’s nest and sweet dry longan mingle well with the scented sweet broth of red jujube. Just a spoon can contain the whole tasty flavour. The aftertaste of swallow’s nest is the very success of the dish.
|Swallow’s nest stew with lotus seed, red jujube and dry longan is good for women. Photo dienmayxanh.com
Swallow’s nest stew with fresh milk
Most women know the effect of fresh milk on the skin. When combining fresh milk and swallow’s nest, the snack is not only rich in nutrition but also prevents diseases and aids beauty.
|Swallow’s nest stew with fresh milk is a good combination for women's skin. Photo nangyen.vn
Swallow’s nest porridge
Black sticky rice is the best for this main course. Swallow’s nest is good for tiring bodies while black sticky rice fights cancer and bring along lots of iron. When stewing black sticky rice and swallow’s nest, a nutritious porridge is made, which is good for the blood and soothes tension.
Swallow’s nest and pigeon soup
Pigeon, lean pork and lotus seeds should be stewed in about two hours, then add swallow’s porridge and stew for about 10 more minutes, and add salt. The main course should be served hot.
It’s advisable to choose the right time to eat dishes with swallow’s nest in order to absorb the nutrition. Experts say early morning or at night, one hour before going to bed, are suitable times for such dishes with swallow’s nest.
Thịnh said for people with high-blood pressure, such dishes in early morning will help strengthen bodies and freshen their minds.
In addition, for people losing sleep, swallow’s nest stew with lotus will help them sleep more soundly.
“If you take the dish three to four times per week, you will no longer lose sleep and always feel powerful,” he said.
For women on a diet, dishes from swallow’s nest will help them cut starch while their bodies still remain healthy with smooth skin. VNS