Basa Flavor Profile
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
Be sure that you are purchasing Basa fish 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.
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.
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.
Basa Fish Butchering Yield Percentage and Recovery
|Item||To Skin/On Fillets||To Skin/Off Fillets||Notes|
|Whole Head/Off gutted||na||40%||If you have yield info on this fish please comment below.|
Range & Habitat
Basa fish 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
|Name||Alternate Names||Catch Method||Where
|Basa||Tra, Vietnamese Catfish, Mekong Catfish, Pacific Dory, Bocourti, China Sole, White Roughy, Royal Basa, Pangas, River Cobbler, Swai||Farmed||Vietnam, Cambodia|
|= Best Choice/Recommended = Good Alternative = 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.
based upon a 6 oz (171 grams) raw edible serving.
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 inflammatory 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 deceitful.
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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