Saturday, 13 December 2014

Bird's nest ferns in Singapore

Bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is a short, large leafy fern which is very common in Singapore. You can see them growing on tree branches, rocks, gardens and in pots. I have known these are ferns and the thing that I don't know is that it can be eaten. Two months ago, I was having my vacation in Hualien Taiwan, the locals recommended me to eat a dish called 炒山蔬.

炒山蔬 Fried Mountain Vegetables

I was wondering what this might be. The taste was very unique and crunchy. It was very good and I was thinking how does the plant look like? I only knew it when a tour guide brought us to climb the Taroko Gorge that I realized that the mountain vegetables that I had eaten the previous night came from the Bird's nest fern. Oh my goodness, it was the young leaves that the tribes harvested and cooked them in garlic and light soya sauce. It looked very delicious. You have to try it to believe it.

The young leaves from the Bird's nest fern in the mountains of Taroko Gorge (Taroko National Park). The local tribe people are selling these vegetables at the mountain trail of the Taroko Gorge. My tour guide bought a packet and told us that he was going to cook them that day. I asked him whether he had cooked them before but he said never. So, he asked the local tribe people how to cook them.

Young leaves of bird's nest fern
Bird's nest fern at the Taroko National Park

There are many bird's nest ferns growing in the Goodview Garden area. But mostly they are on the ground under the shades of tall trees. I saw a few growing along and underneath the MRT tracks. Below are some of the ferns.

Bird's nest fern at Goodview Garden estate
Goodview Garden @ Bukit Gombak
Bird's nest ferns @ Goodview Garden
3 bird's nest ferns on the ground

I'm wondering whether any of my neighbours tried to cut the young leaves and cook them. I don't think so because there isn't any sign that anyone had cut away the young leaves. I think most people in Singapore will not think of eating these. When you are in Hualien, please try this dish.

I was at the Singapore Zoo two weeks ago. There are many bird's nest ferns in the zoo. I passed by the Lion enclosure and saw this big, beautiful giant bird's nest fern in front of the enclosure. You can see the lion in the background. The leaves that the aboriginal tribes eat are the young leaves at the centre which have the curls on the tip of the leaves. I think they don't eat the mature leaves.
Bird's nest fern at the Singapore Zoo
I was wondering whether Singapore can grow bird's nest ferns commercially and harvest the leaves for the delicacy 炒山蔬. I will definitely come and eat but of course that will also depend on the recipe and cooking skill.


  1. I didn't know that these ferns can be eaten until I saw it myself in Taiwan too.

    1. Yes, I was surprised too but I hope someone can start to sell this dish in restaurant and I will definitely go and try.