Bangalees can brace themselves for hilsa soup and noodles within a couple of months thanks to a team of researchers who have come up with a way to preserve the sought-after fish in the form of cubes and powder.
Virgo Fish and Agro Process, a local fish processing plant, will market the hilsa products formulated by researchers at the Bangladesh Agricultural University under a Department of Fisheries and World Fish project funded by the USAID.
Hilsa is a high-protein, high-lipid fish. Its omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eat up the harmful cholesterols in human blood and boost the level of beneficial cholesterol, reducing the risk of myocardial infarction or stroke and cure heart disease.
Yet, the poor and low-income people have little access to the fish because of the high price almost all year round save for the rainy season.
“Keeping this in mind, hilsa soup and noodles have been formulated,” said AKM Nowsad Alam, professor of the Department of Fisheries Technology at the BAU, who led the research team.
The technology was developed in August last year and since then researchers have been testing the quality and consistency of the products.
“Hilsa is a very tasty fish, but many, particularly children and foreigners, cannot sample the fish as it contains very minute, sharp and branched pin bones throughout the muscles. Our effort was to prepare boneless, storable and tasty hilsa products.”
The taste and flavour of the fish has been kept intact, without losing its nutritive value, according to Alam.
The affordability of the products was kept in mind too, Alam said.
The initiative to make boneless hilsa comes at a time when the production of the national fish is on the rise thanks to a host of steps such as a ban on catching of the fish during breeding periods and awareness campaigns by the government.
Hilsa output rose 26 percent year-on-year to 496,417 tonnes in fiscal 2016-17 from a year earlier, according to the DoF.
The popular fish was last year recognised as geographical indication (GI) product of Bangladesh by the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, a local patent authority.
Bangladesh accounts for 70 percent of global production and about 4 lakh fishermen depend on the fish for their livelihoods, according to a DoF publication marking the Fisheries Week 2017.
There is enough supply of hilsa in the market to meet the demand, according to Alam.
“Hilsa production has soared for conservation initiatives. And if we export, we should export high-value products made from hilsa,” Alam added. Virgo Fish and Agro Process is aiming to launch the hilsa soup and noodles in the local market before the Pahela Boishakh, when hilsa is consumed in large numbers.
“We will try to place the products at chain supermarkets within the next two months,” said Jamil Ahmed, executive director of Virgo Fish and Agro Process.
The company is scheduled to get the technology formally at a ceremony today at the DoF.
Soup and noodles from hilsa have great prospects, Ahmed said.
“This fish has appeal to the Bengalis at home and abroad. So, we will cater to both the domestic and international markets.”