While only the more adventurous foreigners in Vietnam have tried birdís nest, the slimy specialty, a nest made from birdís saliva, is considered a delicacy in the country.
Celebrating the tradition of the so-called ďkingís meal,Ē locals of Cham Island near Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam gather on the 10th day of the third lunar month to thank their ancestors who introduced the dish and line of work.
Not only the bird nest hunters but almost the whole population of the island join the festival to make offerings to the ancestors and pray for a successful harvest. The ceremony takes place at a temple in Tan Hiep Ward on the island.
Apart from the ceremony, people play and watch such games as boat racing, tug of war by boat and bai choi singing, a typical Vietnamese game.
Hoi An inhabitants started to collect and process bird nests from around the 16th or 17th century when Cham Island was still a group of deserted islets. A fisherman from Thanh Chau Village first discovered the bird nestsí nutritious and commercial value.
The villagers found out that the salangane birds begin making their nests at the end of every 11th lunar month to lay and brood their eggs. They then raise their offspring until they can fly themselves to find food.
Unlike other kinds of birds, the salangane birds build their nests from their own saliva along high and steep cliffs and cave walls. The State controls bird nest hunting and preservation off Hoi An.
Vietnam has two places where the birds make their nests. Besides Cham Island, even more of them nest on the islands in the central bay of Nha Trang. But although the bay yields more nests every year, the ones off Hoi An are of higher quality, experienced bird nest eaters say.
The nests, also called salanga ears because of their ear-like shape, are very popular because of their high nutritious and disease curing value.
A birdís nest contains 36% to 52% protein. Eating it strengthens the immune system, is good for the blood and nerves and helps against aging. It can also help treating tuberculosis, asthma and osteitis.
From the Cua Dai Beach near Hoi An it takes half an hour by boat to reach the group of seven islets with their few villages and many beautiful beaches.
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