Did you know?
The humble ikan bilis (anchovies) may be a tiny fish, but it’s surprisingly chockfull of nutrients: It’s got iron, healthy polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids) and calcium (credit the bones present in the fish). It’s also packed with heaps of protein. According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), ikan bilis has up to 53g of protein, with only 6g of fat.
Here’s the kicker, though: Dried ikan bilis is literally swimming in salt. That’s 2,616mg of sodium per 100g of ikan bilis, and almost 150 per cent more than our recommended daily intake. However, because it’s so potent in flavour, it’s often used sparingly in cooking recipes. When presented with a plateful, limit your intake to half a palm’s worth, or less. To lower the salt content, soak and wash them before cooking. Or, even better, buy the fresh variety.
The small size gives it one more advantage over other fish: Because it has a shorter life cycle, it’s less prone to heavy metal contamination in the ocean. As such, it’s possibly a safer choice, compared to larger types of fish with the propensity to accumulate heavy metals like mercury. Also, don’t worry about consuming ikan bilis whole, as some believe that plucking the heads off will give it a lower cholesterol content.