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How to choose the best bird’s nest? 4 Ways to Choose Good Bird’s Nest!


Read this before you buy any bird’s nest.

The truth is that bird’s nest comes in different grades and quality. They are commonly consumed as a form of beauty food as it is known to boost one’s complexion, immune system and stimulate cell growth. Despite its popularity, many are unable to differentiate between real bird’s nests from the fakes or differentiate the good grades of bird’s nest available in the market.

How to choose the best quality bird’s nest?

As a general guide, you choose bird nest according to these qualities

  1. Boat shaped or cup-shaped, with smaller edge size
  2. Firm texture with thicker strands, Natural ivory white colour (Not too white)
  3. Clean, with minimal amount of feathers
  4. By Countries or cave/house types

In this article, we will look at the different grades of bird’s nest and show you how to choose the best quality for you and your loved ones!

Bird's nest before it is harvested

Bird’s nest before it is harvested

1.Choosing bird’s nest by shapes

The ideal bird’s nest shapes can be ranked in the following orders

  1. Boat or Cup shaped – intact, whole nest that maintains the shape and strands.
  2. Triangle shape- medium sized, triangle pieces of nests, usually 3 or more such pieces from 1 nest.
  3. Stripes – broken stripes stripped from bird nest
  4. Cakes form – small, tiny broken pieces of bird’s nest, meshed together in a piece form

Bird’s nests are built on cave walls, or farmhouses walls using the glutinous saliva secreted by swiftlets. Their saliva is rich in protein and amino acid which can assist in the recovery of chronic illness and relieve common ailments such as asthma and coughs.

Bird nest quality cup ivory translucent strand

Cup shape nest

If the swiftlets’ nests can be harvest whole, it commands a higher price as the strands are intact and unbroken. This is why the highest quality of birdnest are usually in boat-shaped or cup-shaped. The price is determined by the size and shape of the nest. The finer and more compact the strands are, the higher the price. The best nests are those curved in the shape of a cup, or like a boat, as shown above.

Second most desired would be in triangle shapes, where 2 or more such pieces come from 1 nest.

After that, stripes of bird’s nests which are intact strands of bird’s nest stripped from broken nests can be bought at a much lower price for a decent quality.

Lastly, cakes form of bird’s nests are made of meshed together tiny pieces of broken bird’s nests. These are the lowest quality and often used for bottled drinks.

2. Choose by bird’s nest textures and colour

Ensure that the bird’s nest feels firm, and the strands should be thicker and tight knit together. If the strands are loose and feels soft, the quality is not the best.

Also, there should be a slight fishy smell for good quality bird’s nest.

For best quality bird’s nest, the best colour is natural ivory white. It should not be too pure, as it would suggest bleaching has occured to give it an unnatural white.

  1. White – more pure and without minerals from cave walls or farm walls, suitable for all
  2. Golden Yellow – with minerals absorption from cave walls.
  3. Red- It is not red from the swiftlets’ blood, but from mineral absorption from certain caves.

Golden and Red types are more rare as they can be harvested only from certain caves in South East Asia and due to the rich mineral content and quality, command a higher price.

Golden and red bird’s nest

The gold and red nests are suitable for pregnant ladies, elderly or recovering patients such as anemia or post-surgery patients who need replenishment for the minerals they lack.

All food and supplements, golden and red nests should be taken in moderation, such as weekly (instead of daily) due to the higher levels of minerals it contains. You may like to seek doctors advice before including golden or red nest as part of your diet.


3. Choosing bird’s nest based on cleanliness

When you buy from merchants, you can ask for these 3 types of quality

  1. Premium quality nests- (Aerodramus Fuciphagus) – made out of 95% edible saliva and 5% feathers and debris
  2. Feather Prime Nests- made of 50% edible saliva and 50% feathers and debris
  3. Grass Nest – made of only 5% edible saliva and 95% of feathers and debris.

Needless to say, the premium quality are the best and fetches the best price. Most brands will have cleaning specialists and you can buy ready-to-cook. There are some types that do required cleaning on your own and it will be much cheaper due to the extra time and effort needed to use a tweezer to remove feathers and debris.


4. Choosing by Countries of Origin.

Where are birds nest from?

Edible bird’s nest are only found in South East Asia. Bird’s nest originating from different countries will differ in taste and quality so it is important for you to note where the bird’s nest is from to justify the price and quality.

Bird nests from these countries are ranked in pricing and quality. You can choose the quality based on the ranks. And needlessly to say, the top rank is the most expensive.

  1. Vietnam
  2. Thailand
  3. Indonesia
  4. Malaysia
Bird's nest are from South-East Asian countries

Bird’s nest are from South-East Asian countries

1. Vietnam

Bird’s nests from Vietnam are of a higher quality due to the unique environmental conditions. They are richer in taste and stronger in aroma. There is limited supply of such high quality bird nest and they command a high global price.

2. Thailand

Nests harvested from Thailand are denser, firmer and thicker than normal, and of high quality desired by consumers. These are cave swiftlets’ nests and difficult and low volume to harvest, hence the higher quality and price. They require more time to soak and cook.

3. Indonesia

The texture of bird’s nest made in Indonesia are softer, smoother. These nests are also cleaner as most are harvested from more accessible caves and farms and prices are generally lower. Most Indonesia nests are of decent quality, and they supply 70% of the world’s demands.

4. Malaysia

The majority of bird’s nests harvested from Malaysia are from farms and the nests are therefore more affordable and cleaner.

Cave Bird’s Nests are Usually Higher Priced than Farms

Edible bird’s nests are harvested only either from farms specially catered for swiftlets or in caves on cliffs.  Regardless of where the nests are harvested from, their nutritional content is there about the same.

The controlled environment of a bird's nest farm

The controlled environment of a bird’s nest farm

Farms generally produce much cleaner bird’s nest due to the controlled environments where the nests are built, resulting in a high-quality harvest. Licensed farms also practice sustainable harvesting where the nests are only collected after they are abandoned by the swiftlets.

Cave nest harvesting

Cave nest harvesting

Cave nests, on the other hand, are built on the walls of caves and contain more foreign materials and impurities as compared to house nests. Minerals from the walls also tend to seep into the nests, giving the nests it’s golden or red color as harvesters go further into the caves.


Bird’s nests of good quality should be:

  1. Boat shaped or cup shaped
  2. Fine and firm texture, red, golden or ivory white colour
  3. Clean, with minimal feathers or debris.
  4. From Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia.

HoneyCity offers the most premium of bird’s nest at the best prices. The Bird’s nests are imported directly from the suppliers in Indonesia and they are carefully selected to guarantee satisfaction.

Different grades of bird nest

Different grades of bird's nest

Different grades of bird’s nest

As bird’s nests are eaten for the nutrients in their saliva, the nest of top quality should be made up of at least 95% saliva with minimal processing and cleaning to be edible.

Bottom line: the lower the saliva % and the more processing and cleaning required will result in a low quality bird’s nest. Nest with 95% saliva concentration would be the best while a concentration of 50% and 10% saliva would fall into the second or third tier.



How to identify fake bird’s nest

Fake bird's nest

Fake bird’s nest

Not all bird’s nests are made equal and it will be hard for the everyone to differentiate real bird’s nest from the fakes out in the market. You should take note of the following when choosing your bird’s nest:

  • Colour
  • Purity
  • Size
  • Volume
  • Thickness

Identify Real Bird’s Nest by Colour and Purity

Quality bird's nest should be ivory in color and translucent

Quality bird’s nest should be ivory in color and translucent

The quality of bird’s nest can be determined by the color and purity. When cleaned, high-quality bird’s nest should be translucent with a natural ivory color. Golden or red bird’s nests are the results of minerals and impurities present in the nest which may affect its quality.

You should be wary of birds nest that is extremely white as it may indicate that the product has been artificially treated or bleached to pass off a fake product as the real birds nest. The quality of such products is bad and dangerous to eat so it is important that you only purchase products from trusted and reliable sources.


Identify by Size, volume, and thickness

The price of dried raw nests should justify the size, shape, thickness, and firmness of it. While the most popular shapes of bird’s nests are either the boat or spoon, the nutritional value of both are the same but wider and thicker nest cups are generally of a higher quality.


Preparing and eating bird’s nest:

You can also tell the quality of the nest you bought when you prepare and eat the bird’s nest.

  • Density
  • Volume
  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Texture

Density and volume

You should note that the large and thick bird’s nest cup expands more when soaked in water and the speed of swelling when soaked is based on the location of harvest.  House nests usually expand and cook quicker than cave nests as cave nests are generally more firm.

Good quality nests should not break up easily when soaked in water and the strips of saliva should slowly expand before turning transparent without changing the color of the water. Breaking up and the presence of a murky liquid may be signs of a fake or bleached product.


Taste and smell

Fake bird's nest artificial bad smell smelly plastic

Fake bird’s nest has an artificial bad smell

Taste and smell are signs of whether the bird’s nest you are preparing is real or not.

As bird’s nests are made from the saliva of the swiftlets, a genuine bird’s nest will have a fishy taste and it should give off the aroma like egg whites.

If the fishy taste is missing, it might indicate that the nest is of inferior quality and it might be fake, especially if it reeks of additives or plastic.



The texture of Bird's nest

The texture of Bird’s nest

You can also tell the source of a bird’s nest based on how it feels in the mouth.

Cave nests tend to be crunchy and chewy, while house nests are softer, smoother and more slippery.

It is easier to tell whether the bird’s nest is real or fake through taste, smell and texture when you cook it but it is too late as the money has already been paid and you will be stuck with the product regardless whether is it real or not.

It is important for you to only buy the bird’s nests from reliable and credible sources to prevent falling prey to inferior or fake goods.

Consuming counterfeit bird’s nest can be bad for human health as seen in this fake food article 


Is bottled bird nest good?

Bottled birds nest

Bottled birds nest

Even though bottled bird nest may be “instant” and readily available at your nearest supermarket, the convenience of such pre-bottled bird’s nests may be bad for your health. Some pre-bottled bird’s nest contains high levels of sugar and consistent drinking of bottled bird’s nest may have negative effects on your health such as weight gain, diabetes, and high cholesterol. You may wish to opt for bottles with less sugar.

It is recommended for you to purchase dried raw nest and prepare the serving yourself to have better control over the nutritional content.


Preserve birds nest- How do you store bird nest?

Raw dried nests should be stored in a cool, dry, and airtight environment, preferably in the refrigerator or somewhere away from heat. Storing it away from heat, sunlight, and away from moisture in kitchen cabinet will help to lengthen the shelf life of birdnest.

Bird’s nest usually has a shelf life of two years.

Bottled bird’s nest should be consumed within a few days once it is opened and kept in the refrigerator. Unopened bottles usually last up to 2.5 years.

When cooked, birds nest soup or dessert stored in the refrigerator is able to keep well for a week. Do try to finish cooked bird nest soon so that the nutrients in the bird nest do not deteriorate.

Who should eat bird’s nest?

Bird’s nest for the family

bird's nest best loved ones ultimate guide

bird’s nest best for parents and children

White bird’s nests are usually safe and suitable for everyone to consume daily due to the high levels of protein and amino acid that is beneficial for you and your loved ones. Golden and red nests should be taken in moderation due to the levels of minerals within the nests.

Mineral levels are determined by both the swift’s mineral intake and the environment the nests are harvested from. Bird’s nests vary in color depending on the type of environment it is grown in as it contains different levels of minerals. However, protein and amino acid levels are similar regardless of location.


Bird’s nest for pregnancy

Bird's nest for pregnancy pregnant woman confinement

Bird’s nest is beneficial for pregnant ladies

Birds nest is safe and good to eat during pregnancy as it contains nutrients needed for pregnant mothers. The Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) in bird’s nest stimulates cellular proliferation and development and it is recommended by many TCM practitioners to eat during pregnancy or during confinement to recover from childbirth.

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