People often relate Chinese delicacy to endangering animals or plant species but not edible birds’ nests. It’s tasteless and has a texture akin to jelly. So it is flavored with mildly sweet syrup. Bird’s nest is considered one of the world’s most expensive foods. But then again you probably wouldn’t eat it unless it has some nutritional or medicinal values.

It’s a believed among Asians of Chinese descendents that bird nest is nutritious and increases longevity. Made from the saliva of cave-dwelling birds called swiftlets (Aerodramus fuciphagus), the red nest is the most prized. The swiftlets build the nests on the walls of the cave using their own saliva. In Phang Nga Bay, when you travel by boat you can see these agile swiftlets hovering over many of the limestone cave islands. The nests can be seen inside the caves. The nesting caves are protected areas and off limits to tourists.

Usually made into a soup, scientists have not been able to confirm its healing power or medicinal properties. Laboratory tests only confirm that its nutritional value is equal to that of chicken egg. However, this does not deter the true believers as the nest price still fetches up to 50,000-70,000 baht per kilogram.

The nests are harvested three times a year, first time in March about 45 days after they are built, then again a month later and the very last time when the nest is considered to be crown jewel, which is the time the nests have red stain.

Consuming bird nest is a “belief” passed on from one generation to the next. Because the popularity of edible birds’ nests, the swiflets, as well as their dwellings, are protected by the government. These areas are closely monitored to ensure that the swiftlets live in the most natural and peaceful surroundings.