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Bird's Nest Soup

Authentic bird's nest soup is made using the nests of the swiftlet, a tiny bird found throughout southeast Asia.  The swiftlet lives in dark caves, using a method of echolocation similar to the bat to get around. Instead of twigs and straw, the swiftlet makes its nest from strands of its own gummy saliva, which hardens when exposed to air.  Humans who harvest the swiftlet nests often come from families that have made their living this way for generations.  Prying the nests from the cave walls is extremely dangerous, and many harvesters die each year.

Once the nests are harvested, they are cleaned and sold to restaurants, where they are served simmered in chicken broth. While I have never tried authentic bird's nest soup, apparently it is an acquired taste - many westerners think it tastes quite rubbery the first time they try it.  However it is quite popular throughout Asia, perhaps because it has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac.  It is also costly; many western restaurants serve a less expensive version consisting of soup with noodles shaped to resemble a bird's nest.

Bird's Nest Soup - an authentic recipe from the RecipeSource site
Bird's Nest Soup with Rock Sugar - an easy to make dessert soup 

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