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Birdsnest soup

This soup is a speciality of Southern China and is made from the lining of swifts" nests. This is a sort of jelly secreted by the birds" well-developed salivary glands - it looks like fluffy white wax. The nests are hard to reach, generally being set high on cliffs or in mountainside caves in China, Java, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, needing skilled climbers to gather them.

Some shops in Hong Kong and Taiwan specialise in birds nests, which come in various grades - the best are "white nests" and "pink or blood nests", which are actually complete cups. They are sold pre-cleaned of feather etc. and need soaking before use. The ensuing soup is very expensive, and an acquired taste!

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