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basa, a kind of fish?

  • h

My local supermarket, an A&P, currently advertises "Basa" which it describes as "farm raised, boneless,... mild tasting cousin to catfish." Anyone know what this is? Anyone ever tasted it? I've looked in a couple of books and can't find any reference to this fish.

Since it's backed by the A&P you may well have it inflicted on you in the near future.

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  1. Check out the site, usvtc.com. It's the US-Vietnam trading site. The basa is a Vietnamese catfish that is competing with US farm raised catfish for shelfspace here. It's about a dollar a pound cheaper than farm raised, US catfish. In support of the US industry, I'd buy only US fish. It also happens to be a great product. The site has some articles that claim that most of the basa fish is raised in pens in the Mekong river, where human and other animal waste is funneled through as a recycling project.

    This kind of reminds me of the Chinese mudbug, a vastly inferior product when compared to the Louisana mudbug. The Chinese crawfish resembles pink packing peanuts more closely than any conceiveable food product. Still, they are widely used because they are cheaper than the LA product. Again, I gotta support the US produced product.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Greg Spence

      Sorry, that was usvts.org, not .com.

    2. c
      Christopher Riccio

      Hey Henry
      My wife and I are curious— the fish that we are buying, Basa, at A&P in Hoboken, is this the one from Vietnam? We heard reports of this but were unsure.
      We will consume our last purchase and cross it off our list of fish- thanks for the insight, we're worried mostly about the conditions under which this fish is raised.
      Crugie&Andrea
      Hoboken Too

      3 Replies
      1. re: Christopher Riccio

        I've been enjoying Basa but am concerned about the conditions under which it was raised. Usually Health Canada is very scrupulous about such imports, but I can't find many neutral and objective articles about the health and sustainability status of this cheap, firm, mild fish.

        I have no particular reason to support the US or the Vietnamese industry since I don't live in either of those countries - I doubt either is in danger, given the popularity of fish - but I would like to find out more about this fish from an environmental and health standpoint.

        1. re: Christopher Riccio

          No that is not basa. The basa we buy is not farm raised, It is wild. Did you know that basa only eat plants. Most catfish farm raised or other wise are bottom dwellers and feed off anything.
          I've bought basa in many different states in the USA and I have to tell you it is a lot of imitators selling shark and other fish for basa. I've only found one chain of stores that has been consistent with the real product for the last ten years and that is Albertsons.
          If you live in or close to any major city most oriental fish markets carry the real basa and more then likely a better price.
          Once you try the real basa there will be no mistake in the taste. If you decide to buy again ask for the one that's caught in the wild.

          1. re: ervin_evans

            How do you know Hoboken's A&P is not selling basa?
            Do you have any studies or stats that show "basa only eat plants"?
            Curious minds want to know.

        2. Basa or the slightly lower quality tra are Vietnamese catfish raised in large "cages" in the Mekong Delta. The fish are safe: the volume of flowing fresh water in the Mekong region is enormous. From a food consumer point of view, I much prefer those conditions over the relatively stagnant fish pond water of US catfish. As to trade with the Vietnamese, we should all support open, fair trade. We pushed a destructive war on the Vietnamese; and they still came out hard working and forward looking. Basa fish culture and international commercialization would have positive effects in terms of reducing poverty. Please, let's all think globally!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sam--What you say is true, however, the fact remains that the diet of Vietnamese catfish has traditionally been human waste and I believe that this holds true for the renamed "Basa" as well. It may be everything that you say, but I prefer to avoid bottom-dwelling scavengers as a food source. (In fact, it is against my religious principles.) For those who don't have an aversion to this, I will gladly relinquish my share of Basa.

            1. re: Ted in Central NJ

              Ted, I've seen the toilets over fish pens scattered about in Vietnam and Java, but just small-scale for household.

              The basa production is entirely different (no matter what the US catfish producers say). They really are raised where there is a LOT of water flowing through. They get no algae and so don't even have that flavor hint. I respect your not eating bottom feeders and for similar reasons I don't eat southern farmed catfish.

              I really don't support GS' viewpoint above re: buying US. In the end we will all benefit by being global citizens.

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Think and eat globally. I like Basa, It is clean, delish and honest. And if i knew it was a "catfish" before my first taste, I suspect I would have never bought it.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                My Mom cooked this for me a few times when I went to visit her in New York, and it was delicious. At the time, she thought it was related to a flounder-type fish, but now that I hear it is a type of catfish, it adds up. She simply breaded and fried it, and served it with lemon wedges.

              2. According to a Nov 2001 Article in Buyers Guide of SeaFood Business Magazine, "...the domestic catfish industry was not about to be caught napping by the Vietnamese. The first thing the U.S. industry did was to go and see for itself what was going on. Last November, a group of U.S. catfish farmers and process\ors traveled to Vietnam on a fact-ginding mission. "We thought we'd find them growing fish in polutted water and processing them in crude plants...but that's not what we found. We came back scared to death." and "After digesting the bad news, the US catfish industry unleashed an advertising and public-relations campaign to tout the advanteges of a fish farm-raised in US versus a fish 'raised in a Third World Country" You do the math....Peanutier

                1 Reply
                1. re: peanutier

                  If anyone is curious, here is the link to the Nov 2001 article referenced by peanutier above: http://www.seafoodbusiness.com/buygui...

                  Here is an update on why basa prices are rising due to somewhat dubious U.S. 'anti-dumping' tarrifs. As quoted above, US fishermen got 'scared' when they saw the high-quality Vietnamese competition. When their slandering ad campaigns weren't effective, they appealed to the US government to place high taxes on imported basa:

                  http://www.seafoodbusiness.com/archiv...

                  and

                  http://www.seafoodbusiness.com/archiv...

                  'Anti-dumping' laws don't necessarily protect the US economy and could ultimately hurt U.S. producers & consumers: http://www.freetrade.org/node/222

                  NY Times Article on the controversial basa 'dumping' issue:
                  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                  In terms of sustainability, basa was ranked by the Montery Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch as a "Good Alternative", meaning there are concerns about its sustainability, but it is not ranked as a product to "Avoid." US Farmed Catfish is considered the more *sustainable* choice. As for health concerns, catfish is generally considered a low-mercury fish, but there is apparently 'insufficient data' on imported Vietnamese basa, so the recommendation is to eat it no more than once a week: http://www.oceansalive.org/eat.cfm?su....

                  For a very thorough PDF document on basa farming and sustainability, click here:
                  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                  See also: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                2. I bought some here in Sacramento. The guy told me it was chinese catfish. I love it.

                  1. I tried basa for the first time today. It is delicious. It's a kind of catfish from Vietnam. I was a tilapia fan till we ate basa!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CiaoDavis

                      Basa is not easy to get. I was introduced to it by a woman at BJ's Wholesale Club in Pa. I tried it and found it to be excellent. However it is hard to get. I think it is much better then catfish which I have purchased that was also farm raised. I could eat it several times a week. Found it today in the Acme, and bought 2 lbs. Love it.

                    2. This fish has changed my views on cooking fish at home. I won't get into the tug-of-war here about how Basa is raised, but I've been buying it for about a month now. It's a very mild fish with great texture and (ta da!) no fish smell in the house after cooking it! I wash the filets then put them in a mixture of egg and milk. Next I dredge them in a combo of panko bread crumbs (from Trader Joe's) and dried unsweetened coconut (Delish brand) along with some Lawry's salt and pepper. I put a little bit of peanut oil in a frying pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. Goes very well with Trader Joe's Mango/Papaya salsa.

                      1. Hi',
                        We in Australia have been buying basa fillets for $7.99 per kg. Yesterday it came up in conversation about the way that the fish is farmed , health concerns etc so I jumped on the web to look it up. Is there any truth to the fact that the basa flesh is black & then bleached white so consumers will buy it? Im glad I read its a catfish cousin after Ive eaten is as it wouldve put me off a bit I think.

                        1. I've been enjoying Basa for the past couple of yrs and buy it at my local Albertson's ( I live in Orlando Fl) and most of the time the price is a little cheaper than Tilapia , so you get more for the pound .
                          It's very mild in flavor and I find that it tends to take on the flavor of what I season it with but I usually marinate it overnight so when I make it for dinner it really delicious!

                          1. I started purchasing Basa about 5 years ago, to be prepared in my restaurant.
                            It is cheap and tasty, two very important criteria in the restaurant business. Alas, when it went on the whiteboard, most people didn't know what it was. I'd simply explain it was a delicate, white fleshed fish from Vietnem - they were generally happy with that.
                            I was eating in an italian resto a couple of years ago and saw "pangassius" fish on their special board. I asked what kind of fish this was...
                            "a delicate white fish from Vietnam." they answered.
                            "Ahhh, you mean basa?"
                            "yeah, its also known as basa"
                            Apparently it is known as pangassius in Europe, a much classier name for sure.

                            If comparing Basa to farm-raised US catfish, I'd say basa is cleaner tasting. Catfish having a slightly 'muddy' flavor. I'm not saying one is better than the other, simply different but comparable.
                            I still purchase both basa and catfish for personal consumption.

                            1. I've eaten basa several times. It tastes more like sole than American catfish. The Mekong is a fast flowing river, and the catfish are fed fish. They aren't bottom feeders because they are in cages. Besides, they metabolize whatever they eat into chemicals they can digest, just like every living thing. The processing plants in VietNam are excellent. In North Carolina basa cost about $5 to $6 a pound, much cheaper than most fish. They are shipped tons at a time, so they have a reasonable carbon footprint. Shipping a rail transportation are very efficient--carbon-wise.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: dorr20

                                Here in Toronto, I usually buy my prepackaged frozen basa fillet from Asian supermarket for slightly less than $2/lb. I've seen it on sale for $1/lb once. In mainstream supermarket, they usually charge 2-3x's as much. Asian markets has a high turnover for seafood products and their markups are much more reasonable.

                                1. re: smartconsumer

                                  smartconsumer, I also buy my basa at Asian supermarkets nearby for the prices you have mentioned - though never $1lb! I have bought it for 3,99/kg, which is less than$2/lb. The turnover where I shop is extremely rapid - the place is always packed. It doesn't have a lot of flavour on its own, but that works in some recipes, and people (such as children) who don't like "fishy fish" would eat it.

                              2. I found a video of basa farming on the Mekong. Not really a pretty sight, but not many fish farms are. In defense of the basa and the Mekong, I have eaten wild U.S. catfish all of my life and they are bottom feeders and do not live in the best environments. They just taste good and if you watch the entire video there is really nothing to show that basa are unhealthy...

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx4cyk...

                                1. Ah, this fish came up in another thread recently. I have been eating it for a while just because I liked it, not really knowing what it was. I must say, it is so mild and tender. It is known as Cream Dory in Dubai and I believe it is very popular with the Filipinos here in particular. Good to know the Mekong is a reasonably clean environment to raise fish. It doesn't seem catfish like at all to me in taste. I agree with a poster above, I may not have tried it if I had known it were a type of catfish. But I am glad I did.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                    Sorry to resurrect an ancient thread, but I want to say that every supermarket in my part of Mexico is inundated with basa oriental, the same fish discussed here. I've been buying and cooking it for about six months and my household loves it. It's plentiful and cheap--50 pesos (about $4.35USD) per kilo (2.2 lbs) makes it a big bargain.

                                    I flour and salt it very lightly and fry it in a mix of olive oil and butter. It's absolutely delicious.

                                    I see that my pal Sam Fujisaka was active on this thread. May he rest in peace.

                                    Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                                    1. re: cristina

                                      Hi Cristina - I also live in Mexico, on the Pacific coast, and I have been buying basa regularly as well. I had no idea that it was a form of catfish - it looks more like a saltwater fish. Like tilapia, it takes on the seasonings in which it is cooked, but it has a superior texture, in my opinion. I agree that it is absolutely delicious.