Not for the birds


Story by Jacob Hill, Managing Editor

People who know me know that I am a connoisseur of interesting drinks. Well, interesting to me. Everyone else thinks they are gross. But I persevere through criticism and disgusting drinks. My latest endeavor into the mysterious world of occult drinks was a little Vietnamese drink called Bird’s Nest. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that Bird’s Nest is a metaphorical name for that warm, home-y feeling you get when you drink it. Bird’s Nest is actually literally the meaning of the drink. It is a drink made from something called White Fungus, a fungus found exclusively on a bird’s nest.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients. All pretty simple fare. Water, sodium, vanilla, blah blah blah. However, to their credit, White Fungus is listed as the third ingredient used. They aren’t playing around here. They want you to really taste that fungus. I also noticed that toward the end, they actually even added bird’s nest as an honest-to-goodness ingredient. 1 mg/L of the stuff. Now, I don’t know what they are measuring (the dried twigs?), but it wasn’t a good sign.

So, I cracked open the can and went in for the tried-and-true smell test. It actually smelled pretty good. Some solid vanilla scents with an earthy undertone like you would smell from a cooking truffle or other such root. So, I was kind of excited, maybe this was going to be some ritzy high-class soda that tasted amazing.

I was wrong.

First taste was bad, but nothing horrific. Maybe it was because I have trained my stomach to not freak out at gross things over the years, but I was able to pick up on its plusses. It had a nice vanilla taste, albeit with a funny earthy aftertaste, like when you don’t clean a carrot off just well enough. Overall it tasted good, like a flat cream soda.

The second taste erased all good will I had toward the drink. It tasted the same, but with the added bonus of having a little glob of…something. I assume it was just chunks of the organic White Fungus. I didn’t check the coloration or actual makeup of the drink lest my iron-will be shaken.

The rest of the drink was honestly a struggle. There were too many chunks of fungus for me to be comfortable mentioning. All with the same horrid taste. However, I finished it with no tears (visible tears anyway). I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but if you have a strong stomach and a very open mind, then you might even like the extremely healthy and organic Bird’s Nest.

While my latest adventure into the world of interesting drinks was a bust, it was not without its cultural merit. Bird’s Nest is found everywhere in Vietnam. We found this particular can in an airport vending machine. The White Fungus is not even an uncommon ingredient. It has been used in soups and puddings, with great commercial success on the other side of the world. That kind of love for such a…unique ingredient deserves our respect, but they can keep that love because I never want to taste that again.