An Industry Analysis on Whitebait VS Anchovies (Ikan Bilis)
What is Whitebait?
Whitebait is a collective term for the immature juvenile fish. Whitebait are not a species of fish but the immature fry of many species, depending on where they are caught. They can be an inch long and consists of immature herring, sprat, sardines, mackerel, bass and many others. As they are juvenile, Whitebait is usually seasonal and are high in prices.
Transportation and keeping Whitebait fresh
Because of their size and oil content, they do not transport well as they are highly perishable (Decay or decompose quickly). Being almost impossible to transport Whitebait with the same methods as how bigger fishes are transported, Whitebait goes through a process similar to Anchovies (Ikan Bilis). They are either Salted or/and Sundried to control bacteria growth. Time is critical for the preservation and so processing must begin shortly after the fish are caught. They are cleaned and washed in salt brine, then allowed to dry. "The salting must begin as soon as possible after the boats reach shore, and not more than 12 hours from the time the fish were caught," said Simone Bava, professor of Marine Fishing Biology. Preservation in salt uses a time-honored technique. Without the process, Whitebait will eventually break down and become mushy, therefore fresh Whitebait and Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) are rarely available. However, you can consume them fresh in areas near to their habitat. In Japan, Whitebait that was not sold or boiled raw immediately after their arrival at the harbour would be first steamed then sun-dried before further process. Such process includes further oven-drying them and pressing into thin sheets.
Whitebait VS Anchovies (Ikan Bilis)
In Asian context, Whitebait is considered a premium compared to Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) due to its seasonal catch. Whitebait also has a higher nutrition value as compared to Anchovies (Ikan Bilis). As Whitebait are juvenile fishes, they are small. They can be consumed with their head and bones, which packs lots of calcium and phosphorus. Unlike Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) which are larger, they are usually prepared by removing the head and bones which results in much lost in calcium. At Wen’s, Whitebait are caught fresh at our fisheries then hand selected and salted within the first few hours. We then desalt the Whitebait by boiling and rinsing them multiple times. The desalting process is one of the most important elements in determining the level of sodium that is left in the fishes, and our laboratory results shows a bare minimum of sodium content. After, we sundry the Whitebait to perfection and pack them to be ready for transportation. We transport our dried Whitebait by sea into Singapore, pick them up at the docks and immediately into our kitchen for baking and grinding. Well, The Real Magic is, all the processes are done within 3 days after our Whitebait is harvested. That's how we guarantee that every batch of Wen's Whitebait Powder is a fresh batch caught within the week! Findings of Whitebait VS Anchovies in Nutritional Value can be observed below: