Nido Soup: Delicious Bird’s Nest Soup of Palawan, Philippines

Are you intrigued by what’s so special about the famous Nido Soup? Have you ever tried Bird’s Nest Soup? I had a chance to try the exotic delicacy dish called Nido Soup when I visited El Nido, Palawan.  

My family and I visited El Nido, Palawan where we met a local boatman Vergil Abus and his mom, Clarisse.

Vergel and Clarisse Abus of El Nido, Palawan
Vergil and Clarisse Abus of El Nido, Palawan

Vergil and his mom have been sustainably harvesting the local Balinsasayaw (swiftlet) bird’s nest as one of their family livelihood.  They have a small army of local nest harvesters called “Bushador”.

Read more: Impacts of Ecotourism Development in El Nido, Palawan (Academic Study)

Since El Nido is a protected area of the Philippines, anyone who’s collecting bird’s nests should have a permit from the local Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) and the local council. It is strictly prohibited to collect bird’s nests in El Nido unless you have a permit.  The cave hot spots where the swiftlets usually go to breed are guarded by the Philippine army and local police.

Read more: Best El Nido Island Hopping Guide and Packages for First Time Visitors

The Bushadors are the ones who go to various islets and cliffs in Bacuit bay, El Nido to collect only the empty and unused bird’s nests. They also make temporary makeshift houses near the cliffs so they can easily collect the bird’s nest during the harvest season. They earn their living based on the weight of the total collected bird’s nest during the harvest season. 

Weighing the Bird's nest in El Nido Palawan
Weighing the Bird’s nest in El Nido Palawan

During our visit to the Abus’ residence, where the Bushadors congregate to deliver their collected bird’s nest. Each gram of the bird’s nest is valued at 180 Philippine Pesos or more depending on the colour purity and grade.

Quality A Grade Ivory White Bird's Nest from El Nido Palawan Philippines
Quality A-Grade Ivory White Bird’s Nest from El Nido Palawan Philippines

The (ivory white) whiter the fibre of the bird’s nest, the more expensive it is. This is one of the livelihoods of the locals other than tourism and fishing.  

Bird’s nest soup origin?

The Bird’s nest soup originates from China. It has been a popular and expensive Chinese cuisine. The Chinese started to serve the bird’s nest soup during the Ming Dynasty around 1,500 years ago.  Historians believed that the Bird’s nest also known as the Swallow nest was brought to China from Southeast Asia as an imperial gift to the Chinese emperor.

In the Philippines, the Nido Soup is the local version of the Bird’s nest soup and it originally came from El Nido, Palawan.  

El Nido, Palawan is one of the main breeding grounds for the “Balinsasayaw” / swiflets. The nests of these birds are mainly found inside the caves and cliffs dotted around the Protected Area of Bacuit bay and the inland region of El Nido.

What is the Bird’s nest soup made out of?

Bird's Nest raw fresh from the cliffs of El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Bird’s Nest raw fresh from the cliffs of El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

The Bird’s nest soup is made out of the solidified saliva of the swiftlets that are commonly found and bred in Southeast Asia and China.  These edible bird’s nests are classified and valued according to their colour and purity. It is classified as one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans.

What are the benefits of eating bird’s nest soup?

According to Chinese Eastern Medicine, the edible Bird’s nest helps to promote good health, mainly for the skin to maintain youthfulness and improve the complexion.  Hence, the Bird’s nest soup is a sought-after Chinese delicacy by locals and food enthusiasts. 

Mrs Clarisse Abus cleaning and preparing the Bird’s Nest

When I asked Mrs Clarisse Abus in El Nido, Palawan, she mentioned that the locals of El Nido love consuming the Nido soup to help them strengthen their immune system especially when they are recuperating from common illnesses like colds and coughs.

Why is Bird’s Nest Soup expensive?

The reason why the Bird’s nest soup is so expensive is due to its rarity and the process of sourcing the bird’s nest. The swiftlets mate every year, hence the bird’s nest can only be collected when the young leave the nest.

This is due to the strict sustainability rules and ordinances of the Local Government and other Non-Governmental Organisation, that promotes a sustainable way of collecting the nest and protecting the natural habitat for the Swiftlets.

Second Grade Bird's Nest from El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Second Grade Bird’s Nest from El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

The colour of the Bird’s nest ranges from golden yellow to ivory white. The top-grade and ivory white purity colour of the edible Bird’s nest can be sold for up to thousands of US dollars per pound or kilos.  Always get your Bird’s nest from a good reputable source to avoid counterfeit Bird’s nests.

Fibrous texture of genuine Bird's Nest from El Nido Palawan Philippines
Fibrous texture of genuine Bird’s Nest from El Nido Palawan Philippines

How to check if the Bird’s nest is real or fake:

  • Check the colour of the Bird’s nest when soaked in water.  The real Bird’s nest should not stain the water when it is soaked for 1 to 2 hours in preparation for cooking.  The fake Bird’s nest will leave some artificial colouring on the water.
  • Be mindful of the Bird’s nest shape and fibre.  The real Bird’s nest when soaked in water will lose its shape, will have an uneven fibrous structure and become semi-transparent.
  • Check the smell of a Bird’s nest.  The real Bird’s nest will have a mild fishy smell. The fake Bird’s nest will most probably have a plastic or chemical or no smell at all.

What does bird’s nest soup taste like?

The Bird’s nest soup has a very mild taste that is comparable to a chicken clear soup. The Bird’s nest soup traditionally has a few spices and seasonings that perk up the soup’s flavour.

Our Bird's Nest Soup prepared by Mrs Abus in El Nido
Our Bird’s Nest Soup prepared by Mrs Abus in El Nido

Let me share with you the Nido Soup recipe that we tried in El Nido. Prepared and cooked by Mrs Clarisse Abus for our group using the fibrous pieces of Bird’s nest which are locally called “Sinisa”.

Nido Bird’s Nest Soup Recipe:

Ingredients:

How to cook:

  • Pour the water into a saucepan and put the packet of the bird’s nest (Sinisa).
  • Mix in the packet of Nido Oriental Style soup base. Mix well
  • Place it on a hob and bring to a boil with continuous stirring.
  • Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Whisked the egg in a small bowl.
  • Add the egg and stir it gently with a fork or balloon whisk until the egg is well dispersed and mixed in the soup.

Additional information:

You can also add onions, spring onions or other desired vegetables to this soup if you wanted. To add extra flavour to the soup, you can also put a bit of soy sauce.

I hope that excites you to try the Nido Soup (The Philippine version of the Chinese Bird’s Nest soup).  A great delicacy to try when you visit El Nido, Palawan.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Daily Mail UK, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her in travelling around the UK and beyond with a mission to promote sustainable tourism and share travel guides, travel tips, foodies, history and culture.

Leave a comment