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Basa Fish

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Basa is a Catfish from Vietnam and has a milder flavor and more delicate texture than our native Channel Catfish and may be more approachable for people who do not normally care for catfish.  Basa are  moist, sweet and mild flavored with tender white flesh which has more flake than Channel Catfish.  In Vietnam, Basa fish are preferred over Swai which is coarser and grainier in texture.  More Swai is shipped to the US than Basa.

Typical Cooking Methods

  • Bake
  • Broil
  • Deep-Fry
  • Grill
  • Poach
  • Saute
  • Smoke
  • Steam
  • Sushi

Purchasing Guidelines

Be sure that you are purchasing Basa and not Swai which is sometimes wrongly marketed as Basa.  The meat of Basa is white to off-white with a tender flake and fillets which are thinner than Swai.  Swai have a coarser texture than Basa, with tan to beige colored flesh which cooks up white.  Avoid catfish fillets that are reddish or yellowish.  After cooking the flesh is white and opaque.  The quality of catfish is dependent upon the water conditions and feed. Watch out for “specials” which may feature lower quality product.  Know and trust your vendor, some oversees packers have been known to load only 80 - 90% of the weight into the case.  

Some Vietnamese processors will also soak their basa fillets in sodium tripolyphosphate to increase yields, and they won’t always put it on the label as they’re supposed to. While proper use of STP is a widely accepted processing practice used to maintain both moisture and quality, improper use of STP can result in excessive moisture loss after thawing, which results in an inferior and more expensive product.

Alternate Names

Vietnamese Catfish, Mekong Catfish, Pacific Dory, Bocourti, China Sole, White Roughy, Royal Basa, Pangas, River Cobbler (UK)

Description (Pangasius bocourti)

Basa is a type of Catfish and therefore have a rather flattened head which is broader than it is long with barbels resembling cat whiskers and deeply forked tails.  The body of a basa fish is stout and heavy. The blunt snout has a white band on its muzzle.  They can grow to about 3.9 feet (120 cm).

Basa fish is preferred in Vietnam over Swai, but Swai grows faster and is more resilient so it is sometimes marketed to the United States as Basa because it is cheaper.

Basa fish
 

Fresh Availability

Fresh seafood availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh.  Fresh Basa may be hard to come by in the US, but try your asian markets.  Frozen is available all year long from some vendors.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
                                                                                               

 

Basa Butchering Yield Percentage and Recovery

ItemTo Skin/On FilletsTo Skin/Off FilletsNotes
Whole Head/Off gutted na 40% If you have yield info on this fish please comment below.

 

Range & Habitat

Basa are found throughout Southeast Asia, but are especially known to be farmed along the Mekong River, Vietnam.  Basa which is exported to the US is farmed.


 

Typical Wholesale Products

Fillets skin/off, boneless, fresh or frozen.

Basa Sustainability Info

NameAlternate NamesCatch MethodWhere
Caught
Seafood
Watch
Blue
Ocean
Ocean
Wise
Sea
Choice
Mercury
Concerns
Basa Tra, Vietnamese Catfish, Mekong Catfish, Pacific Dory, Bocourti, China Sole, White Roughy, Royal Basa, Pangas, River Cobbler, Swai Farmed Vietnam, Cambodia Yellow-icon_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png Red-Dot_20.png Yellow-icon_20.png  

 Green-icon_20.png = Best Choice/Recommended     Yellow-icon_20.png = Good Alternative     Red-Dot_20.png = Avoid/Not Recommended                              Updated Jan 2013

 In the United States, Channel Catfish (the predominant catfish cultivated in the US) is considered the Best Choice.  Although Basa is considered a sustainable resource, there are some ecological concerns about the way it is managed.

 

Nutritional Information

based upon a 6 oz (171 grams) raw edible serving

* Calories/Calories from fat 154
* Protein grams 22
* Fat grams 6.9
* Saturated fat grams 2.6
* Sodium milligrams 86
* Cholesterol milligrams 77
* Omega-3 grams na
 

Catfish Wars and Basa Safety

During the on going "catfish wars" between US catfish farmers and Vietnamese farmers there has been a lot of accusations thrown around about polluted, poisonous Basa and Swai.  But an independent study was done by Doug Marshall, a professor of food science and technology at Mississippi State, and graduate student Amit Pal.  He looked at three questions: Did one have more bacteria than the other? How about nutrition? What about taste?

The frozen imports were compared to frozen, farm-raised channel catfish from local grocery stores.  "Both fish were about the same in terms of quality and safety indicators," Marshall said. Also, nutritionally, both fish were about the same, though the US fish were a bit fattier" he said.

In another article dated 2001 a group of U.S. catfish farmers and processors traveled to Vietnam on a fact-finding mission. “We thought we’d find them growing fish in polluted water and processing them in crude plants,” says one processor who went on the trip. “But that’s not what we found. We came back scared to death.”

A highly inflamatory video regarding Basa farming is popular on YouTube.  I believe that much of this video is propaganda to keep Americans buying US catfish.  Although I support buying American products, I don't believe that every Vietnamese aqua farmer is raising fish in sewage and that the US allows them to dump their filth into our food system.  Have you been visited by the health inspector lately?  Do you really believe they would allow sewage infested fish into the country?  Someone is being decietful.

Bottom line--know and trust your vendor and supplier.  If it is a company like Sysco (who sell Swai from the Mekong River), they have a million dollar insurance policy simply to protect their customers from the ramifications of bad food.  They are not going to purchase a product which is unhealthy, dangerous, poisonous, polluted, or in some other way liable to cost them a law suit.

 
 

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David Buchanan is a professional chef and author of Chefs-Resources.com, a site geared towards providing chefs and culinarians useful info to help in their kitchens.
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Comments [ Add a Comment ]

FISH LOVER [66.87.0.158] [ Aug 21, 2012 ]

I like to eat fish and I know that the texture of basa is strange.. it's not flaky like channel catfish, nor is the flavor as mild. Also I've been in Brazil where they raise catfish and I've seen them dump a lot of Malachite Green on sick fish..This causes cancer in people!