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54798.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:56 am Reply with quote

Q: What is bird’s nest soup made from?
F: Not bird’s nests - it’s a myth.
A: Bird’s nests.

I wonder if this is worth a try? I’m fairly sure that most people think the famous Chinese delicacy is a Western myth; in fact, it seems, it is exactly what it says it is.

And it allows us access to this rather interesting story:

“South-East Asia correspondent Peter Lloyd discovers a town in southern Thailand that’s gone to the birds – literally. Residents of the small town of Pattani are enjoying a mini gold rush, except instead of gold, they’re collecting bird saliva. The birds in question are sea swifts, and for centuries they’ve nested in hillside caves in the area. But a few years ago they inexplicably discovered the joys of urban living, moving into the unfinished basement of the biggest hotel in town. The birds build their nests with the secretion from jaw glands that firms as it dries out. Once the chicks have grown, the nests are abandoned – and that’s when the humans move in. The nests are harvested and turned into birds’ nest soup – one of the most expensive dishes available, and regarded as the caviar of the East. Each kilo of nests sells from around $US2,000. Now everyone in town has got in on the act, turning over their houses to the birds – with many even building special houses with high security to deter poachers.”


Links: Diet.

54812.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:20 am Reply with quote

I do think that in principle it would be good to have some Gen Ig questions where the obvious answer is 'correct' - otherwise there's a tendency for the ones who care about not looking stupid to refuse to bite at all. This question works on that level for sure, though I suppose you'll get a quibble about it being not the nest but the cement that holds it together.

The notes should cover shark's fin soup (which is) and thousand-year-old eggs (which aren't).

54815.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:29 am Reply with quote

And liquid cat, which is.

Goyangi-tan, a South Korean remedy for joint pain, made from cat, ginger, dates and chestnuts. The result is more a fine paste than a soup, but the whole idea is (unsurprisingly) abhorred by animal rights group.

54818.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:31 am Reply with quote

In which context:

Q: What does shark's fin soup taste of?

A: (I'm sorry to say) Nothing much, apparently.

For which reason I don't think this is a viable question.

Individual shark fin ”needles“ can be described as having a texture somewhere between soft rubber and hard agarose jelly, with the flexibility of the former and the slight brittle "crunch" of the latter. When a whole fin is eaten, the binding tissue combined with the needles softens the needles' otherwise rubbery impact. Shark fin itself does not have much flavour though it may hold a slight fishy fragrance. It is for these reasons that flavourful stocks and ingredients are used to enhance the flavour of shark fin.

Even so, 'shark fin is the third most prized ingredient of the four treasures of the sea in Chinese cuisine' and the soup can fetch up to US$100 a bowl. You can get a budget version for $1.50 a bowl, but this is made of mung bean vermicelli in chicken broth.

The harvesting of shark fins is a grotesquely wasteful process wherein they cut the fin off and throw the rest of the shark away.

54823.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 9:41 am Reply with quote

Q: How old are thousand-year-old eggs?

A: 100 days.

or, alternatively:

Q: What do the whites of thousand-year-old eggs have in common with shark's fins?

A: They don't taste of anything, apparently.

(You put the eggs) in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for 100 days. The yolk of the egg is concentrically variegated in pale and dark green colors while the egg white is dark brown and transparent like cola. The yolk is creamy with a strong aroma and an almost cheese-like flavor. The egg white has a gelatinous texture similar to cooked egg white, however with very little taste.

A recipe for creating century eggs through this process starts with the infusion of three pounds of tea in boiling water. To the tea, three pounds of quicklime (or seven pounds when the operation is performed in winter), nine pounds of sea-salt, and seven pounds of wood ash from burning oak is mixed together into a smooth paste. Each egg is then individually covered by hand, with gloves being worn to prevent the corrosive action of the lime on skin. Each egg is then rolled in a mass of rice chaff to keep the eggs from adhering to one other before placing them in cloth-covered jars or tightly woven baskets. In about three months the mud slowly dries and hardens into a crust, and then the eggs are ready to eat. The recipe makes around 100 to 150 century eggs.

And, in case anyone should raise it:

According to a persistent myth, century eggs are or once were prepared by soaking eggs in horse urine. This is not true since urine is usually acidic or very weakly alkaline, and the myth may arise from ammonia smell created during some production processes.


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