THINK ON THESE: Ever heard of tilapia ice cream?

Some years back, I tried eating crocodile ice cream when I visited the Davao Crocodile Park in Ma-a. Actually, it’s not the crocodile meat that is being used for the ice cream but crocodile eggs.

Now comes tilapia ice cream, which scooped up the top prize during the National Symposium on Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resource Research and Development (NSAARRD) last year.

The innovation took the top spot in the Development Category. The Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resource Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science Technology (DOST) led the NSAARRD, which showcases the most outstanding contributions of individuals and institutions in the field of agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources research and development.

“Tilapia ice cream is the recent addition to the growing trend of unique and interesting flavors of ice cream in the market,” said the press release circulated by the S&T Media Service.

The tilapia ice cream was developed by food scientists and researchers at Central Luzon State University (CLSU). “The tilapia ice cream is an enjoyable way to get the best out of what tilapia can offer,” they said. “This tilapia food technology offers consumers a rich protein source without the fishy and smelly taste of tilapia.”

I did some research on tilapia ice cream and I found out that it was the brainchild of Dr. Tereso A. Abella, the current CLSU president. He is said to be inspired by the shrimp-flavored ice cream he tasted in Taiwan.

However, it was Dr. Diana G. Vera Cruz of the CLSU’s College of Home Science and Industry who experimented and produced the tilapia ice cream minus the fishy taste and smell. Dr. Vera Cruz has a diploma on hotel and restaurant management course at the Ashworth University of Georgia in the United States.

But it wasn’t until in 2015, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), a line agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) approved to fund the commercialization of tilapia ice cream.

The grant “paved way to the process optimization of the product to improve overall product quality.” As part of product optimization, chemical, physical, and microbial tests were conducted.

“In addition to the scope of the project funding, packaging selection and shelf-life determination was also addressed,” my source said. “Towards commercialization of the product the consumer test shows a positive response from the consumers.”

For its part, the PCAARRD funded equipment and machinery for the tilapia ice cream production.

The product name is Daerrys, the combination of the proponents’ nicknames, Dana and Terry.

The Daerrys Tilapia Ice Cream made news when it received the Gold Award at the Salon International de L’Agroalimentaire (SIAL) Innovation event held at World Trade Center in Pasay City in 2016. It won over 350 exhibitors from 25 countries.

There are now different varieties of the tilapia ice cream, according to the daerrys-tilapia-ice-cream. The best-selling tilapia ice cream was originally made using cream, condensed milk, carabao’s milk, cheese, nuts, and tilapia flakes.

To share the taste of tilapia ice cream with more Filipinos, Vera Bella Enterprises Ltd. created the Daerrys tilapia product lines. Aside from ice cream, they also created other products such as tilapia cookies and ice cream sandwiches.

According to Dr. Vera Cruz, who is the managing partner of Vera Bella, the motivation to pursue tilapia ice cream was to provide another option for addressing malnutrition and undernourishment in the country.

“The problem that we intend to solve here is the declining fish consumption of children. Incorporating fish into the children’s diet, and even those individuals who don’t eat fish, is an innovative way to provide them with the protein and other health benefits of eating fish,” said Dr. Vera Cruz.

Tilapia is now the country’s second most popular fish – after bangus. Tilapia was very popular during Biblical times as it was a symbol of rebirth in Egyptian art. It was also one of the three main types of fish that can be found in the Sea of Galilee.

The fish is sometimes called “St. Peter’s fish,” due to a story mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage didn’t name the fish.

Tilapia has gained popularity among Filipinos who cooked the fish in different ways: either grilled or fried. Tilapia can also be made into a sinigang (a sour soup using tamarind, santol, guava or calamansi as a base) and paksiw (like sinigang but uses only vinegar).

Tilapia has replaced galunggong (scad) as the poor man’s fish. Nutritionists claim that 100 grams of tilapia provides about 93 calories, with one gram of fat (0.5 grams saturated), 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 37 grams of sodium, 0.5 milligram of iron, 19.5 grams of protein, and 90 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

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