You won't have to climb trees for this dish, nor will you have to pay thousands of dollars as some people do, actually cooking with, and consuming the nest created by a young bird in the Southeastern Asian region. The bird is known as a Swift, or Swiftlet. The nest is known as Yanwo, constructed with the saliva from a Swiftlet. Yes, I'm serious. People eat bird nests. When the nest is dried, it is valued for culinary use, said to possess medicinal, as well as aphrodisiac qualities. The nest has a gelatinous texture when cooked, and it is often used for soups, very expensive soups.
But we'll skip the Swiftlet spit, and make our own edible nest using your choice of white potatoes, sweet potatoes or even taro root, a bulbous root typically found in the produce section of an Asian supermarket. After frying the nest, referred to as a Phoenix Nest in the culinary world, it is filled with a delicious beef and pepper stir-fry. Come along, and I'll show you how!
Although a few kitchen gadgets are necessary, they are not overly unusual, and are often found in a local store.
SPIDER / STRAINER: - A small, rounded wire basket, typically attached to a bamboo handle, is known as a ‘spider’, or strainer. While you could easily improvise, a second spider is best for making the nest that will contain the beef and peppers. Look for the gadget under key words such as spider, strainer, Asian strainer and such. They are available in different sizes such as 6”, 8” and even larger, depending on what size nest you would like to make.They usually run about $7.00 - $8.00, so if you are expressing concern that the tools are too expensive, ask yourself how much you paid for the last Asian dinner at a restaurant. If you buy the tools, you can make your own dinner, and keep the tools. Besides, you'll want to make this dish again, and the strainers can also be used for other things in the kitchen...you know, like straining!
WOK: - A wok, or other frying pan which will enable heating of several inches of cooking oil. Be certain the pan is deep enough to cover the basket of the spider, but not so deep that the tool cannot be safely used at an angle.
CHEESE GRATER or MANDOLINE: – You will need something to shred or slice potatoes in a very thin strip. A mandoline (not to be confused with the musical instrument 'mandolin') will produce thicker strands of fries that will form a heartier basket, while a cheese grater with large holes will make a more delicate bedding for the beef and peppers. Please note! Using a potato or yam on a mandoline can be a bit dangerous, as the vegetables are very firm, requiring quite a push on the blade to cut properly. Use extreme caution, and always use the protective vegetable holder that should have been included with your mandoline.
DEEP FRY THERMOMETER: Oil temperature should be 325 degrees (for white potatoes) to 350 degrees (for sweet potatoes or Taro root), depending on which root used for the nest.
OTHER: Paper towels, sharp knife, measuring cups and spoons, fork, scissors, etc.