Having partaken of birds' nest soup at Chinese banquets in the 50's and 60's, I don't remember it as being particularly tasty. It did have a distinctive gelatinous texture:
Right after they are mated, [swallows] regurgitate long, thin gelatinous strands from their salivary glands under their tongues. These strands play an important role in making their nests.Birds' nests became very expensive, and chefs substituted other ingredients like sharks' fin (discontinued when sharks became endangered) and even corn starch.
Now that birds nest has been, er, regurgitated as a health food, expense is no object. From the company website:
Based on modern researches, the protein contained in swallow nest is distinct in that it is mainly biologically active protein, which has revitalizing effects to human body. The researches reveal that Swallow nest contains small amount of epidermal growth factor. Water extraction of Swallow nest can also directly stimulate cell growth/regeneration and enhance the effectiveness of mitogen (the initiator in cell division). Also, this active protein in the nest makes it a very useful tonic for people with weak digestion system (e.g. elderly people), and for some that need a very rapid cell regeneration and development (e.g.: pregnant women, growing children). One of the most recent published researches confirms that the high content of water-soluble glyco-protein in swallow nest promotes cell division within the immune system.The beverage is good for elderly people, pregnant women, and growing children. The target market's hu-uge! I decided to wait; I'm not elderly....yet.