After a short visit to the US I’m back in Kuala Lumpur. Throughout the city there are any number of Chinese pharmacies making potions and remedies, the practice goes back thousands of years. These establishments just amaze me, they are mysterious, wonderous, and one just can’t describe the shelves filled with oddities and dead dried things. If you want to get your Yin balanced with your Yang, this is the place to come.
The man behind the counter went to several jars and pulled out what looked like roots, dried mushrooms, ginseng, weighing each item as he did. After drying the items in an oven the twig collection is ground into a powder. I asked the lady next to me at the counter what she ordered as I pointed at the mix of items placed delicately on a paper square. “Energy tea” she said.
One item I see all the time on Chinese menus is Birds Nest soup and if you are going to make it, here is where you come buy them. There are varying qualities of birds nest, here my expert picks out two nests for me, he weighs them and totals up the bill, $30. Hmmm… and I got the cheap ones. Yellow and red nests harvested from caves can run hundreds of dollars just for one.
The White-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) builds its nests out of saliva. Unlike shark fin, bird nests are a renewable resource so I have no qualms about eating it however; the manual labor to clean them and the dangerous harvesting techniques in the caves makes it one of the most expensive consumables on earth.
Traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion (Could use that), raising libido (Not sure, maybe), improving the voice (Don’t need that), alleviating asthma (Don’t have asthma), and enhancing the immune system (Sure can use that) to name a few, the Birds Nest does contain calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, yum. I mentioned to my friend Donna, when I was in North Carolina, I’m going to make Birds Nest soup when I get back to Malaysia so here goes…
How to make Birds Nest Soup
Prep time 24 hours. The basic recipe is as follows:
Red Wine, a good red wine…
Skipping this ingredient could cause the whole thing to go to waste .
Go get some vegetables and chicken. Make ahead your own chicken stock. Simple, chicken carcass, carrots, celery, onion, salt, and pepper. TIP: Blanch the chicken carcass a few moments, this ensures a clear broth then discard the water. Start with clean water, vegetables and make the stock. Of course if you screw it up just go buy some pre-made chicken stock. Ignore the fact that I have Kraft Mac and Cheese in my pantry, not sure how that got there.
- Birds Nest: Soak over night in cold water. Remove any feathers or twigs with tweezers. Nothing worse than feathers in a soup.
- Chicken Stock 6 cups
- Chicken Breast (minced)
- Cornstarch 1 tbsp. make a slurry
- Dry Sherry 1 tbsp. Take a sip if you like…
- Egg whites 2
- Take a sip of wine, 4 tbsp.
- Green onions
- Ham (Optional)
- Ginger one slice about this big around|<——>| and this wide |–|
Mix the cornstarch roux and add to the stock. Bring stock to a boil and add birds nest and Sherry.
Sip some wine and add minced chicken, ginger and salt to taste.
Sip some more wine, Beat egg whites and fold into the soup, bring to a boil and serve with chopped green onions, ham, finish off with a sip of wine …. and wallah we have →
Hmm, how did that happen, Donna’s feet in my soup. Must be the low-grade birds nest. Let me try again.
Finish off with a sip of wine and wallah !
Taste like chicken! Or egg drop soup with rubbery strings of birds nest, not bad when paired with some duck. Given the expense and time I don’t think I will make this again. However, the fun of shopping in Chinese pharmacies makes it a worthwhile experience, walk in one sometime and ask for Porcupine Bezoar or sea cucumber, it will fix that Yin and Yang problem you’ve been having…