7 Healthy Reasons Why You Should Eat Indian Fish Offal Dishes
Image Credit: Freepik

This won’t come as a surprise to you if you come from any of India’s many coastal states or states where fish sourced from rivers is consumed as a part of daily food. But did you know that traditional Indian cuisines which are fish-dominated have not only always been sustainable and used fish offal in cooking? Those growing up in Bengal or Assam might be familiar with Maacher Tel or Masor Petu. Those in Maharashtra and Konkan would have their Vajri Masala and Vajri Rassa. But in effect, all these dishes are made with fish offal

In an era when people across the world are quickly becoming conscious about sustainable fishing and food waste, this Indian tradition of cooking with fish guts is not only commendable but a part of the nation’s rich culinary history. Truth be told, the reason behind so many fish offal dishes from across India exist because of our unique history. While large fish and their fleshy bits tend to be more expensive, fish eggs, intestines, lungs, stomach and even parts of the head, tail and fins are often thrown away or available very cheaply. 

This is the reason why so many fish offal dishes across India originated among the poorest and most disadvantaged communities, especially during the British colonial times. Today, however, the health benefits of eating fish offal and the environmental benefits of using the ingredient are so well known that everybody should indulge in these traditional Indian dishes. Here are seven crucial reasons why Indian fish offal dishes should make it to your plate. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Sonamala Kitchen Recipes

1. More Than Just Protein 

All offal, whether sourced from fish or any other animal, is extremely nutrient-dense and rich in proteins. Loaded with vitamins A, B12 and minerals like iron, zinc, and folate, adding fish offal dishes to your diet can not only benefit your immunity, but also help with the production of energy and red blood cell formation. 

2. Healthy Fat Source 

Fish offal is exceptionally rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and especially compounds like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This makes fish guts, eggs and stomach not only a source of healthy fats but also helps with several bodily functions that support good health. This includes the reduction of inflammation, improved heart function and boost in cognitive or brain function. 

3. Collagen For Your Health 

Whether it is fish heads, fish skin, eyes or lungs, fish offal is loaded with something called collagen. What eating rich sources of collagen does is to boost the health of connective tissues and help repair cell damage. This means eating fish offal can not only benefit your joint health, but also the health of your skin and hair. 

4. Satiety For Weight Loss 

Fish offal is not only loaded with proteins, healthy fats and other essential nutrients but also has some amounts of carbs present. Naturally savoury and umami, eating even a bit of fish offal can not only add to your healthy weight loss meal, but also keep you satiated for long hours and curb cravings to binge-eat. 

5. No Food Waste 

This one might seem obvious but it is well worth repeating. Eating fish offal instead of throwing it all out is not only good for your health but also that of the planet. The habit not only reduces food waste but also helps out those who are a part of the pisciculture ecosystem, namely the fisher communities of India who have to deal with seasonal changes, natural disasters and market demands despite it. Eating fish offal is the best use of resources this nation has, especially if you are already non-vegetarian. 

6. Pocket Friendly Option 

As mentioned before, fish offal—whether it is fish intestines, head, tails, fins, stomach or eggs—are usually thrown out. So, fish offal is very easily and cheaply available across India, making it a pocket-friendly source of nutrition and flavour for non-vegetarians. What’s more, even with seasonal and expensive fish varieties like Hilsa and Catla, you can get offal for much cheaper rates to create fishy feasts. 

7. Keeping Traditions Alive 

As mentioned before, fish offal recipes from across India—whether they are from Bengal, Assam or Odisha, or from Andhra, Tamil Nadu or Kerala—have been developed over centuries and reflect the true flavours of hyperlocal Indian cuisines. Embracing these recipes today can not only help keep Indian culinary traditions alive for future generations, but also help keeping the nation’s resources well utilised.