Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Wonderfarm's Nuoc Yen Ngan Nhi

Those are the noises Curly makes when he's slapped by Moe.

The can tried to tear out my throat,
but fastened onto my upper lip instead.

Pray for death.

Imagine a baby vomiting up curdled milk, to which an enterprising entrepenuer adds vanilla and more vomit. That's Wonderfarm's Nuoc Yen Ngan Nhi. Let me add that the baby might have vomited because it had taken a sip out of someone's mint flavored chewing tobacco cup. Just a sip, but enough to add a certain tang of despair and loathsomeness.

My pals Todd and Katherine brought me this stuff from their rolicking trip around Asia. I'm not sure where they actually bought it, but it was made in Malaysia. Lots of drinks are made in Malaysia, I have a whole boxful waiting for my attentions. Them Malaysians sure like to drink awful, awful things.

The magic part of Nuoc Yen Ngan Nhi is revealed by the translation on the reverse of the can: White Fungus Bird's Nest Drink. Yep. I'm down with the fungus part, but the bird's nest part is the novelty.

It's also exceedingly naughty.

These nests are built only in certain caves, which have been traditional collecting sites for hundreds of years. Photos of the caves are impressive, as the collectors have ancient bamboo scaffolds reaching up to the cave roof many stories above, allowing them access to the nests.

Everything I've ever heard about the edible bird's nests says that they are an overharvested resource. There is a traditional schedule of bird's nest collecting. You let the birds build a nest, then you harvest it, and they build another one. Then you harvest that one, after they are through with it. Apparently nowadays greedy bird's nest collectors harvest the second nest immediately, and that nest isn't replaced. A whole generation of birds are lost.

0000026 <- That's where my cat just stepped on the keyboard. In The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe describes how he thought the bird's nests were formed. He wrote that cave swallows (I think the birds we're talking about are swallows) flew to the sea where they picked the innards out of sea cucumbers. These innards were used to build the nests. The nests are actually made from bird vomit. But from Poe we can take a reasonable guess that the dried innards of sea cucumbers and the bird's nest nests are similar stuff. And both were valuable commodities in the Asian markets, perhaps another reason to confound the two.

But back to the White Fungus Bird's Nest Drink. It's awful. If I was Pym and had drank this stuff, I would shove the white angel aside and embrace the steaming waterfall. They don't mess around with the ingredients. Water, sugar, white fungus, bird's nest. Peering into the murky depths of the glass, I'm not quite sure what's what. I imagine the little white jelly shreds are white fungus, but if so then where is the bird's nest? Part of me vaguely remembers bird's nest soup being compared to shark's fin soup, which might mean that the bird's nest is embodies in the thickness of the drink itself.

Eh. Who knows.

It smells just like it tastes, by the way. I don't think I can finish this stuff. Many drinks I choose not to finish, but this stuff chose for me. I suspect I'll vomit if I try to choke it down, in fact, I'd probably do so if I took another drink. I just tried to fool myself into drinking some more, I picked up the can and started to read it then spun around and grabbed the glass and tried to drink. Sadly, the smell got to my nose before the glass reached my lips and I had to abort.

Back to the can. Right here on the side it says "Under 100% Foreign Processing Technology". Hey Malaysia, have some nationalistic pride. More can looking shows me the address of the company: Trade Ocean Holdings SDN, BHD. 700, Jalan Valdor Dungal, Valdor Industrial Estate, 14200 Sungai Bakap, Penang, Malaysia. First off, arch-villains shouldn't put their addresses on their products, it makes it too easy for James Bond to find your lair. I mean, c'mon, if "Valdor Industrial Estate" isn't an evil lair, what is? I'm just disappointed that the Penang region allowed such a horrible taste to come out of it. I mean, they created Penang curry, and what could be better than that? The manufacturer has a website, www.wonderfarmonline.com. Go there and explode them.

The last bit of information I can garner from the can is that what I drank is about two years old. It looks like it was canned on 03.08.07, which could mean March 8 or September 3 - I don't know which way Malaysia goes on this issue. However, it's good till 02.02.10. That's February 2 no matter where you're from, unless it's Dyslexia-ville. Okay, I'm going to go in the bathroom and try to chug this stuff down. Wish me luck... ...Couldn't do it. Tried to drink, gagged. Poured it into the toilet and peed on it. Go to hell Todd and Katherine.

Like a glass full of jellyfish
cleverly disguised as semen.


  1. Good lord, that sounds delightfully foul. You're a brave, brave man.

  2. Sadly, it's not the worst thing I've ever drank - though it is the most immoral.

  3. Yum. By the way, 03.08.07 might be August 3rd, not September

  4. Ah. You are correct. You have shamed me in the public realm, are you happy? I weep blood.

  5. Tim, can't find your email address. Would like to get in touch w/ you. I can be reached at habs@panix.com Please

  6. I visited the Wonderfarms site. Their line up of "canned drinks" includes artichoke, aloe vera, pennywort, soursop and two varieties of green grass jelly. Ai ai ai.

    But maybe some of them are good? After all, fish sauce is made from fermented fish corpses, and it smells like a bagful of onion-stuffed asses at the beach, but it mixes well. Right?

    Anyhow, nowadays birds nests are mostly factory farmed, in concrete seaside bunkers. Tell me this doesn't look like a mad scientist's last redoubt.

  7. It taste yummy. Bought one whole carton.

  8. are you serious? i just had a can of this and it was delicious. taste's like sugar syrup. not even remotely weird tasting.

  9. I actually enjoy drinking it. It's really delicious. I've been drinking it since when I a lot was younger, matter of fact, I'm drinking a can right now. I haven't had it in like 2-3 years! Although, I have to admit, now that I actually know what's inside of this drink, kind of feels weird and a little grossed out. BUT STILL DELICIOUS! But then again, this is coming from an almost 13 year old.

  10. I bought some last night (3 cans for $2), based on the intriguing ingredients and the classy looking can.
    I actually enjoyed it. My son....not so much. I'd try it again. I have to, I still have 2 cans left!

  11. It's actually Vietnamese, not Malaysian. Just sayin'. Don't say it's gross just because of its ingredients. After all, honey is bee vomit and people have no problem eating that.

    And to Max, don't judge "artichoke, aloe vera, pennywort, soursop and two varieties of green grass jelly" drinks just because of their names. They're actually very nice.

  12. Why do you figure it was Vietnamese? The label on my can listed Malaysia as the place of origin. I don't disbelieve you, not a bit, but I'm curious where you get your information.

    And I'm not actually against the idea of bird's nest as a food source, I'm against what I understand to be the unsustainability of the harvesting - though Max indicates that I am wrong in this belief.

  13. Huh, anonymous is right, the Wonderfarm website indicates that they are in Vietnam. I swear to god that the can indicated Malaysia though.

    I bet they were finally driven out of the country.

  14. I tried the bird nest soup last year from like www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm . Tastes really good... yeah, I thought it was gross at first, but wow, you won't regret it.