Bird's nest & hashima: What's the difference?
Bird's nest and hashima are two Chinese delicacies that can be found on menus at high-end Chinese restaurants in Singapore.
While it is commonly known that bird's nest is made from the saliva secretion of swiftlets, one might be surprised to discover that hashima is actually the fallopian tubes of snow frogs.
Besides having similar textures taste-wise, both ingredients are believed to enhance one's complexion and nourish the lungs, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Bird's nest can help to clear phlegm and aid digestion, in addition to its purported benefits for the skin and lungs.
Hashima is also believed to improve memory and strengthen the immune system.
According to TCM specialist Eu Yan Sang, both are safe for the young and old to consume, and are suitable for pregnant women.
Both hashima and bird's nest contain active compounds like amino acids, which help build new muscle protein, produce antibodies, and repair damaged tissue.
Fatty acids like Omega-3s are found in hashima, and these acids are essential for building healthy cells which keep our skin plump and healthy.
Glycoprotein present in bird's nest also strengthens our immune systems and heals and regenerates tissues in our body.
According to Eu Yan Sang, high-quality hashima has an irregular oval shape, with a white-yellowish surface and semi-transparent appearance. High-quality bird's nest are usually presented whole, with each 'nest' curved in the shape of a spoon.
Taste & preparation
Both bird's nest and hashima are sold dried and have to be rehydrated in water before they can be cooked and consumed.
Preparing bird's nest can be a particularly time-consuming process, requiring up to 10 hours of soaking and cleaning. Impurities have to be removed with tweezers when they have softened in water.
While they don't possess much flavour on their own, both delicacies are usually served in the form of 'tong shui' or Cantonese boiled desserts that are sweetened with rock sugar.
High-quality hashima should be smooth when cooked, and without any bitter after-taste. Consumption As hashima may contain hormones from frogs, Eu Yan Sang advises customers not to consume it together with drugs or other herbal medicines, so as to prevent any possible effects from herb-drug interactions. For bird's nest, the TCM specialist and retailer advises that it is best consumed on an empty stomach or at least three hours after dinner, for maximum nutrient-absorption. Price
A 50g portion of raw high-grade bird's nest can easily cost upwards of $200, while raw hashima typically costs less than half the price for the same portion.
That is why hashima is sometimes referred to as "a cheaper bird's nest".
The hefty price tag of bird's nest is thought to be partly due to its rarity and the dangerous and time-consuming harvesting process.
Besides the raw form, there are bottled versions of bird's nest and hashima too, so one can just grab a bottle on the go, instead of toiling over its preparation.
At Eu Yan Sang, a box of six bottles of Snow Hashima costs $32.90, while a box of six for its Superior Bird's Nest (with rock sugar or reduced sugar) retails at $49.90.
According to Eu Yan Sang, their bottled bird's nest and hashima products are produced using the highest quality and safety standards. The all-natural ingredients also do not contain any stabiliser or artificial flavouring.
This article is sponsored by Eu Yan Sang.