In some Asian cultures, bird’s nest soup is not only a delicacy but a medicinal concoction, believed to aid digestion, strengthen the immune system and — perhaps its biggest selling point — increase libido. You might think that there must be some magical dried leaves and twigs in those nests to have such a power, but think again. These nests are actually made out of bird saliva, which has dried and hardened. That’s right; when you’re eating a bowl of bird’s nest soup, you’re having a bowl of spit (and other ingredients).
It’s been a prized delicacy in China and among Chinese people for 1,200 years. The best nests were reserved as gifts for emperors and empresses, who ruled China as gods incarnate.
While trade in edible nests has been recorded since the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), famed 15th century Chinese admiral Zheng He is also credited with starting the Chinese belief in the medicinal powers of bird’s nest. As the story goes, shipwrecked sailors scavenging for food found the nests, and He told them to clean and cook them. A few days later, the sailors were full of vim and vigor, and he figured he should tell the emperor.