Cooking with Alison

Birds Nest Soup Recipe

In Asian, Asian Desserts, Other Asian Foods on February 1, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 6)

Dried birds’ nests (also known as swallows’ nests) are considered a Chinese delicacy.  Bird’s nests are believed to have many health benefits, including improving overall health and combating signs of aging.  There are 3 different types of bird’s nest and they can be distinguished by their differing colours.  The colours are, in order of increasing price, white, yellow (shown in the photos below), and red.  Some people say that drinking a few spoonfuls of birds’ nest each day will keep you looking young and feeling healthy.

Bird’s nest is most commonly used to make a Chinese sweet dessert soup.  After being boiled, bird’s nest becomes gelatinous in texture.  It is pretty much flavourless.  Here is my mom’s simple recipe for bird’s nest soup.  Alternatively, we also make the birds’ nest without the rock sugar and then mix a few spoonfuls of it into a bowl of warm milk.  I love drinking it with milk just before bed.

Inside view of a dried bird’s nest

Outside view of a dried bird’s nest


Chinese ceramic stew pot with double lids

Steamer set up for making bird’s nest soup

Bird’s nest soup

Bird’s Nest Soup Recipe

adapted from Alison’s mom

2 dried birds’/swallows’ nests

Chinese yellow rock sugar to taste

Soak the birds’ nests in water overnight at room temperature.  Strain out the birds’ nests using a fine mesh strainer and rinse them under cool running water.  Remove and discard any feathers that you might find.  Place the bird’s nest into a Chinese cereamic stew pot that is double lidded.  Add filtered water to the stew pot until it reaches a level 1 1/2 inches below the rim.  Put both lids on the stew pot.  Set a steaming rack in the bottom of a large stock pot  (see the set up in How to Steam Cook Food).  Place the stew pot on top of the steaming rack in the stock pot.  Pour water into the stock pot, around the stew pot, until it reaches halfway up the stew pot.  Cover the stock pot with its lid and bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Then reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer for 1 1/2 hours.  Add a few pieces of the rock sugar.  Continue simmering until the rock sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Taste test and add more rock sugar if desired.  Then simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Serve immediately.

  1. I have never tasted this despite being Chinese. What does it taste like?

    • To be honest, it’s really hard to describe the taste of birds nest… it’s very very mild but distinct. Sometimes I feel like I can taste the ‘animal’ in it. The word ‘gamey’ comes to mind, but the fowl version. You mostly notice the texture of it – slightly slimey and with a bit of a bite (depending on how long you cook it for).

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