The history of this dish has spanned for centuries because of its healthy reason. According to stories, only the royal family could enjoy it since it was very rare. Nowadays, although the price is still relatively high, it has become much more of a common food for most Asians. Consequently, the luxurious status of this product has also made it popular as gift alternatives for those celebrating Chinese New Year.
Picture 1: Red birdnest from Thailand’s cave
Bloodnest was first found in natural caves from countries mostly located in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia (North Borneo), and Indonesia. Yet fascinatingly, old manmade houses, which conditions appear to be highly similar with that of natural caves, can also produce bloodnest.
Bloodnest’s existence has always been a mystery, and not many people truly understand how this luxury dish is formed. Many people until today take its name too literally and assumed that the color of bloodnest comes from the blood of the bird (Species: Collocalia fuciphaga). Some are also misled by rumors, believing that the color of bloodnest is artificially made by chemical coloring and other harmful substances. Perhaps, these negative issues are direct result from aggressive marketing competitions.
But regardless of all the false myths circling around, this miracle of nature is essentially a simple product of fermentation process. When initially produced from the salivary gland, bloodnest was white, just like all other edible birdnest. However, with the precise combination between the microclimate factors in the caves/house (ranging from its temperature to its humidity level), and the various substances found in it, an organic fermentation process occurs. Within a period of 2 – 3 months, the observable result
Picture 2 : The natural formation of red birdnest by fermentation that happen in the house. Shown in the picture some of the birdnest color have already changed to red and few birdnest that are recently built are still whiteof the fermentation is reflected through the change of color, where white birdnest turn into bloodnest.
Like bloodnest, many other food products in our market today are also made through fermentation. There are more fermented products in the market than we think. Common food such as black tea, soy sauce, vinegar, kimchee, tofu, wine, beer, and cheese are all fermented product.
During fermentation processes, new substances that hold benefits for the human health are often created. This is most likely why fermented dish becomes a healthy choice of meal for many cultures today.
The price of bloodnest is normally higher than white birdnest, and its demand consistently increases throughout time. In order to fulfill this demand, several producers have attempted and somewhat succeeded to recreate this fermentation process in other settings besides houses and caves.
Replicating the fermentation process in other setting allows them to be more practical, as it speeds the process of fermentation to only several days. However, similar to how wine has a wide range of quality, bloodnest’s quality also varies.
The quality of wine is largely determined from its material and its fermentation method. Likewise, although more time consuming and difficult to produce, cave/house-produced bloodnest clearly results in a much better quality than bloodnest produced in other settings. This difference in quality causes cave/house produced bloodnest to have a much higher price than bloodnest produced otherwise.
During the process of bloodnest fermentation, many substances that are highly beneficial towards the human health are created as a result. However, along with the creation of these healthy substances, a high level of Nitrite is also produced as a byproduct of this fermentation process.
Picture 3 : Harvested red birdnest from the house
Normally, when bloodnest is prepared and ready to be eaten, this level of Nitrite has essentially decreased to a minimal amount. This is because consumers of birdnest have long adopted a very common practice when preparing their birdnests before cooking.
They soak the nest in water for a few hours before they replace it with new water for boiling.
Scientists have discovered that Nitrite is a highly soluble substance. When bloodnest is soaked in water for a mere 2 hours, most of the Nitrite content has dissolved in water, and bloodnest is left with a negligible amount of Nitrite, making it a safe and healthy consumption.
Zainal Hasan, a scientist who performed research on the Nitrite level in bloodnest from Departemen Biokimia FMIPA-IPB Laboratory, Bogor - Indonesia, supported this finding. He commented, “after we soaked 10grams of bloodnest in 1 liter of water for 2 hours, there is a drastic reduction of Nitrite concentration in bloodnest”.
According to the USDA1978 regulation, food with Nitrite content that is lower than 120ppm is safe to be consumed. After soaking, bloodnest Nitrite level falls to a level that is much lower than 120ppm thus making it very safe to be consumed.”
In reality, many other organic products in the market today also contain some level of Nitrite. Foods such as shark’s fin, sea cucumber, canned meat, and abalone are all common products that contain Nitrite substance. Even raw black nest from the caves in Indonesia and Malaysia also contain some level of Nitrite. Most of the dishes listed above are very popular dishes in China, and given proper preparation, they too are safe to be eaten.
Based on the facts presented, and credible discussions with specialized scientists, it can be concluded that bloodnest is proven to be a very safe dish to consume. Just like other food, with proper preparation before consumption, bloodnest becomes a highly enjoyable dish that also holds various health benefits for its consumers.