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 not as disgusting as it sounds — or perhaps it is — but either way, bird’s nest soup is not without its frowned-upon opinions. These nests of spittle are created by swiftlets — little birds indigenous to Southeast Asia that dwell in caves — and taking them out of the wild harms the species’ livelihood, much to the chagrin of conservationists. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from foraging for them. The demand for bird-nest dishes in places like Hong Kong outweighs the supply, which results in a high market price: a pound of these bird nests fetches over $4,500 (USD), depending on the nest’s quality.