Bird’s Nest Soup

Bird Nest Soup

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A bowl of bird’s nest soup (冰糖燕窝) is a prized (or should I say pricey) Chinese delicacy. Bird’s nests (swallow’s salivia nests) are expensive due to the difficulty in harvesting. Its drink is said to do wonders for skin, throat and lungs, as well as boosting overall health and well-being.

See Also: Snow Fungus Dessert Soup

Lots of Asian celebrities consume this daily to look beautiful! When cooked, the bird’s nest takes on a gelatin texture, making it a lovely tong shui (“sweet soup”; Chinese dessert). Whenever my mum makes bird nest’s soup in the past, she stew it the simplest way possible (as with all my mum’s recipes) – just bird’s nest, water and rock sugar. When I cooked mine, I added a few ginseng slices though it is purely optional. Check out my mum’s tips below for making a homely bowl of double-boiled bird’s nest soup.

Bird Nest Soup

Mum’s Tips for Home-Stewed Bird’s Nest Soup

  1. Rather than weighing the bird’s nest, we go by pieces per person. For two persons, my mum used 2 small pieces or 1 large piece. This equates to about 5-8 grams per person. We use 1 rice bowl of water per person.
  2. Although red dates are a common addition in bird’s nest soup, my family omitted them. According to my mother, the cheap red dates will act like a sponge which absorb the goodness of the bird’s nest soup (though it’s not so bad if you eat the red dates).
  3. My family prefer to enjoy bird’s nest in the purest way – just bird’s nest, water and rock sugar. If I cook it, I sometimes add American ginseng slices. If you find ginseng bitter or intend to consume at night (it improves alertness/提神), omit it.
  4. Don’t fuss over prepping the bird’s nest, because the ones sold nowadays are usually very clean. We simply soak the bird’s nest pieces in cold water for about 1/2 to 1 hr until softened, but not so long that the bird’s nest disintegrates into small bits. If there are any impurities such as debris and feathers, pluck them out using kitchen tweezer, drain and they are ready for cooking.
  5. Just as we do not soak bird’s nest for too long,  we also avoid stewing them for too long. The older folks especially dislike it when the stewed bird’s nest soup do not have solid chunks after cooking. We usually stew them for half to 1 hour in a double-boiler.
  6. For best results, double-boil instead of using direct flame. We use a slow cooker as the double-boiler.
  7. It is said that bird’s nest soup is best consumed at room temperature, or chilled, on an empty stomach (such as just before bed). For maximum absorption, do not eat “heaty” snacks  or medication a few hours before and after drinking bird’s nest soup.
Double-boiler set-up

Double-boiler set-up

Bird's Nest Soup with Rock Sugar Recipe

We use an electric slow-cooker as the double-boiler. For best results, use boiling water as it takes a long time for the water in a slow-cooker water to heat up.


  • 1-2 pieces bird’s nest (yan wo/燕窝)
  • 2 rice bowl hot water
  • 10 slices American ginseng (花旗參) optional
  • 3 tbsp rock sugar to taste


  1. Soak bird’s nest pieces in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 to 1 hour, until softened. Pluck out any feathers or debris using kitchen tweezers. Rinse and drain. To prevent wastage, run soaking water through a fine sieve to catch the small bits of bird’s nest.
  2. Add soaked bird’s nest , hot water and ginseng slices in an inner stewing pot. Cover with lid.
  3. Place stewing pot inside a larger pot such as a slow cooker. Double-boil for about half to one hour. When the bird’s nest is cooked to desired texture, stir in rock sugar to taste and cover for about 5 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve fully. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Noob Cook Tips

We use an electric slow-cooker as the double-boiler. For best results, use boiling water for both the inner and outer pot. The water in the other pot should cover at least 3/4 of the height of the inner pot. The stewing time begins counting when the water in the outer pot starts to bubble (for my slow cooker, it takes about 45 minutes).