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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day out at the bird's nest farm in Bình Dương

Last week I spent a day in the bird's nest farm in Bình Dương with some of my old friends. The farm belongs to a friend of mine. I knew him since I still worked for a Finnish company, but we didn''t see each other for a while until last year we met up again.
It was quite interesting day-out to his farm, to witness how they do the nesting houses for thousands of swiftlets, to harvest the bird's nests - one of the most expensive foods that we consume these days.

               The nesting houses in my friend's farm in Dầu Tiếng (Bình Dương province) 

Before the bird's nest was definitely not a food that we could buy easily, it likely belonged to the list of those delicacies only for the royal, for the super rich. As far as I remember we could get the natural bird's nest only from the far isles, especially in Nha Trang - our famous seacoast town.

            The view from living room, enclosing area with fence to keep iguana... 

Most nests are built during the breeding season by the male swiftlet over a month, the nest has a shape of a shallow cup stuck high up to the cave wall on the isles, so to harvest it was very dangerous and that made the bird's nest more expensive. That was in the past!

                and his 10 nesting houses - view from dining room.

These days people do the nesting houses, they set up the sound system, like a bird's chirping, to attract swiftlets into the house and to nest there. And this has become a big and quite popular business in Vietnam over the past few decades. I was told that this business is very industrialised in Indonesia or Malaysia, but some markets prefer the products from those famous areas in Vietnam, near to the sea, like Khánh Hòa or Rạch Giá.

                   inside the nesting house, the entry is strictly for authorised personel only! 


You check the video to hear the swiftlet's chirping, to know which nest available for harvesting. The only thing you can't feel here was the smell of many things: birds, bird's waste, humid naked brick walls...not really nice!  

                   We found many swiftlets incubating...on their nest.

We collect only those abandoned nests, it means after the eggs hatched, the chicks grew up and they left the nest for the new life. That's time to harvest it. I'm very impressed when hearing some touching stories about these birds, like the couple - a male and female swiftlets are never apart, if one died, the other will follow to end his or her life right after.

                 The couple of swiftlets, probably, in the process to incubate their eggs... 

It looks quite simple, but it's definitely not an easy business, it requires big investment as one house costs nearly 1 billion Vietnamese Dong (about 50k in USD) from the building the house, equipped with some sound system to attract the birds, or devices to maintain the humidity inside the house, to protect them from the snakes, rats, to apply some chemical with similar to the bird's smell (!). If one bird or their chicks attacked by the snake or rat, they all abandon the house and not only one house. The whole flock will be moving out and that to become a nightmare for every farmer. So they have a 24/24 surveillance camera inside the house.

                 another empty nest, near by - that we can collect...

                   carefully take out the nest from the wooden bar 

                one single nest, after cleaning all the dirt, feathers will cost from 15 up 20 USD

Another day when I came to see my friend at his house in Thủ Đức, I witnessed how they do the cleaning - they put the harvested nests in slightly wet towel, make it soft, and one worker with her tweezer will collect every single tiny tiny feathers, every dirt...It could take 30' up to one hour to clean up one nest. Then later already clean but wet-n-soft nests will be dried by the fan system in a mould in order to get the shape of a half cup back within 2 days and without any extra supporting adhesive ingredients.  

             here are the nests right from the house...

I have no idea how really good these bird's nest as food, I bought for my mother several times, I also tried the sweet nest's soup. The taste was quite special, not bad at all...probably because I was obsessed with those stories or rumours about this delicacy! The nests are rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising "libido", improving the voice (the singers are surely the most loyal customers of these nests!), overall, benefit to our immune system!

I'm not that fancy with those "royal" delicacy so we better go back to our very simply farm lunch that my friend prepared for us. Everything was super fresh right from his garden - the veggies to the chicken!

                 Just simply cooked bottle gourd served with...

                the boiled eggs in pure fish sauce 

               the poached duck meat with ginger 

                simply cooked chicken served with...

               salad  from banana plant's trunk - soft, sour sweet 

That was a day out with friends to visit the bird's nest farm. The only damage for me was to buy "voluntarily" from my friend two boxes of bird's nest. Anyway I have to buy for my mom, so better buy from friend, otherwise I absolutely confuse as in the market - plenty of poor quality bird's nest from unknown sources. If anyone wanna buy, please do contact...my friend!

                  And here how we celebrated after visiting our friend's bird's nest farm! 

P.S: My friend was not in the photo! 

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