Swai Fish Flavor Profile

Swai Flavor Scale

Swai fish is a Catfish from Vietnam which has a milder taste and more delicate texture than our native Channel Catfish and may therefore be more approachable for people who do not normally care for catfish. Swai are moist, sweet and mild flavored with beige colored flesh which turns white after cooking. It is coarser and more grainy textured than Basa, which is closely related and sometimes wrongly sold as Swai. In Vietnam, Basa fish are preferred over Swai because of its more delicate flake and sweeter flavor. Because the Vietnamese like Basa better, and since Swai grows more quickly, more Swai is shipped to the US markets than Basa.

Typical Cooking Methods

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

Alternate Names

Tra, Iridescent Shark, Shark Catfish, Striper (Trader Joe’s), Striped Catfish, Striped Pangasius, River Cobbler (UK). Swai is sometimes incorrectly called Basa or Panga.

Purchasing Guidelines

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.

Typical Wholesale Products

Frozen skin/off fillets weighing from 2 oz to 11 oz each. Typical grading is: 3-5 oz, 5-7 oz, and 7-9 oz. It is available as raw unbreaded fillets, and with a variety of breadings including a parmesan breading.

Description (Pangasius hypophthalamus)

Swai have fins which are dark grey or black. Juveniles have a black stripe along the lateral line and a second black stripe below the lateral line. Juveniles also have shiny, iridescent skin which is why they have the name Iridescent Shark. Larger adults on the other hand are uniformly grey and lack both the striping and the iridescent quality. Adults reach up to 4 feet (130 cm) in length and can weigh up to a maximum of 97 lb (44 kg).

Swai fish

Swai Fish Fillet photoPhoto by Lerdsuwa distributed under license GNU Free Documentation License

Fresh Availability

Fresh seafood availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh.

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


Swai Butchering Yield Percentage

Item To Skin/On Fillets To Skin/Off Fillets Notes
Whole Head/On gutted na 40% If you have yield info on this fish please comment below.


Range & Habitat

Swai fish are a fresh water fish found in the Mekong River basin of Southeast Asia as well as the Chao Phraya river system. They have also been introduced into other river basins in the region.

Swai Fish Sustainability Info

Name Alternate Names Catch Method Where
Swai Tra, Striped Pangasius, Basa, Striped Catfish Farmed Vietnam Yellow Red Yellow
Disclaimer: The sustainability info above is accurate to the best of our knowledge. However, each program randomly updates their information without our knowledge. We therefore recommend that you verify the current accuracy of this information.
Green = Best Choice/Recommended      Yellow = Good Alternative      Red = 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 Swai is considered a sustainable resource, there have been some ecological concerns about the way it is managed.


Catfish Wars and Swai Safety

During the on going “catfish wars” between US catfish farmers and Vietnamese farmers there have been a lot of accusations thrown around about polluted, poisonous Basa and Swai Fish. 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?
Is Swai safe to eat? Read more

Nutritional Information

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

* Calories/Calories from fat 105
* Protein grams 21
* Fat grams 3
* Saturated fat grams 3
* Sodium milligrams 465
* Cholesterol milligrams 68
* Omega-3 milligrams 750



Raw Swai Fish ingredients for a recipe

Swai Parmesan


Swai Fish Recipes

Because swai has such a delicate taste it is very versatile in the kitchen and lends itself well to many preparations and sauces. Any recipe for cod or halibut should work well with this fish. If you are a die hard catfish lover, then you may be disappointed with swai because its flavor is not as robust as our native Channel Catfish.

Swai Vera Cruz
Grilled “Bruschetta” Fish with Parmesan Basil Potatoes
Swai Fishcakes
Fried Fish Dinner with Swai
Baja Fish Tacos
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Comments from before Site Migration

Add a Comment!

DAVID BUCHANAN    [ Oct 10, 2013  ]

Robin – I use the mercury info from https://seafood.edf.org/ and they don’t have info on Swai.  Safe Harbor Foods says that swai are low in mercury. And yes, they are bottom feeders like catfish.

ROBIN []    [ Oct 10, 2013  ]

I’m still unclear about the mercury level of Swai.  Can you clarify? Also, is Swai a ‘bottom-feeder’ like Catfish?  Thanks!

JAY []    [ Sep 14, 2013  ]

Thanks for these recipes.I live next to the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok & catch a lot of these so I’m always grateful for new ways to eat it. The locals here tend to make a curry from it which is good.It also bbq’s whole quite nicely.

DAVID BUCHANAN    [ May 04, 2012  ]

I enjoyed your recipe about Swai on your site Create Amazing Meals.  Thanks for the comment!

LESTERSE    [ May 04, 2012  ]

Thanks so much for visiting my blog & for this informative post.  We will definitely be eating more of this versatile fish!


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