Can you tell the difference between fake bird’s nest soup and real bird’s nest soup?
If you’ve had the courage and curiosity to try the prized soup, there’s a good chance you were so enamored by the new experience that you weren’t too concerned about whether or not what you were eating was fake.
Unfortunately, the edible bird’s nest market is overrun with fake producers who are looking to cash in on what is a booming niche food market: one pound of bird’s nests can sell for more than $4,000 per pound.
Couple that with tourists’ increasing interest in the Asian delicacy and you’ve got a formula for fraud.
As experts in the edible bird’s-nest industry, our goal is to help you distinguish between fake bird’s nests and authentic ones.
So, we’ve put together a list of things you’ll want to check once you’ve got your bird’s nest in hand.
Bird’s Nest Soup: A Culinary Tradition
Before we jump into our list of ways to spot fake edible bird’s nests, we want to give you a little background on bird’s nest soup.
The soup has been popular in China for more than 1,000 years. It’s made with nests built from the saliva of the swiftlet, a bird native to several countries along the east coast of Asia, Malaysia, the Philippines and into the South Pacific.
The nests are harvested, cleaned and shipped to buyers around the world who use them in restaurants, give the nests as gifts or enjoy them in their own homemade soups.
Fake Bird’s Nests: The Crumble Test
The biological make-up of a real bird’s nest is such that, when you crumble it between your fingers, the nest breaks down into a powder like substance.
Man-made, chemical-based bird’s nests are fragile just like the real version, but, when you try to crumble a fake between your fingers, it breaks off into big chunks.
Fake Bird’s Nests: The Soak Test
An important part of making bird’s nest soup is soaking the nest in water for 1-2 hours. This rehydration process gives the nest the consistency it needs to integrate into your soup.
Post-soak shape: Fake nests are more uniform
A real bird’s nest will, after about 30 minutes, transform into a gelatinous, formless shape.
The fibers of the nest will be somewhat visible, but not nearly as uniform as they were when they were dry. You may also find a feather or two; this is completely normal.
Fake bird’s nests, on the other hand, will maintain a uniform shape during the soaking process and will have a minor chemical or fatty/fried smell. The surface of the fake bird’s nest will be bumpy.
Post-soak size: Fake nests don’t expand
Real bird’s nest usually double in size after the soaking stage, whereas fake bird’s nests remain the same size.
In fact, real nests can absorb up to seven to nine times their weight in water.
Soak color: Fake nests bleed
Arguably the most prized bird’s nest type is the blood nest, a red bird’s nest thought to be colored by blood in the swiftlet’s saliva.
Once your soak is done, the real red bird’s nest will retain its blood-red color. The red coloring of a fake bird’s nest will bleed into the water, a sign that artificial colors were used to tint the nest.
Soak Consistency: Fake nests cloud water
Because bird’s nests are made from a swiftlet’s water-based saliva, they mix well with water. For example, if you were to stir a bird’s nest while it was soaking, a bubbly foam would appear on the surface of the water.
Fake bird’s nests are made from chemicals. So, if you were to stir a fake bird’s nest, it would cloud the water instead of creating a surface foam.
Golden Nest: The Industry Leader in Authentic Bird’s Nests
As we mentioned earlier, we emphasize quality control so that you can order your bird’s nests without worry of fakes or counterfeits.
If you want to put your next bird’s nest to the test, take a random nest from your order and soak it at room temperature for between one and two hours.
Golden Nest swiftlet nests will maintain their shape and expand considerably. You’ll be able to shred our nests just like you would boiled chicken – the nest will separate into long strands and the water will remain clear; no sediment or discoloration.
To learn more about our high-quality bird’s nests, head to Golden Nest’s “Our Products” page.