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Catfish: Totally Underappreciated?

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I just want to rant on how awesome I think catfish is. To be honest, I used to be snobby and knock catfish as being a cheap, dirty, low-class fish. I considered it the pig of the sea in a land where beef and chicken rule. But now, I realized that I've never had catfish that wasn't delicious.

Catfish is wonderfully flavorful and distinct, unlike other fish that can pretty much taste however you want it to taste like. I think the image of catfish as being a poor man's fish is totally unfair and I definitely would like to see it on more high-end restaurants. Catfish doesn't just belong on the fried seafood menu anymore. I think chefs can do so much more with it. It's always fresh and has a high turnover rate. I don't see why it shouldn't be just as appreciated as any other fish out there!

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  1. preaching to the choir.

    1. I love it dredged in cornmeal, pan fried and drizzled with fresh lemon juice.

      1. I love it fried. It is a sweet tasting fish which I thought I would never eat. My hubby encouraged me to try some of his awhile back and I was surprised to say the least at how yummy it was.

        1. man i miss eating fresh catfish. when living in new orleans it was so easy to find it. but now in nc can't find it that easily. especially love it the vietnamese caramel way called ca kho to. but my mom never did it in a claypot.

          1. I'm confused. There is catfish, small whole fish usually breaded and fried, had it in Southern Indiana, and there is "ocean catfish", a larger fish you buy in fillets. Is the term "catfish" derogatory like "dogfish"? are they two species? which is which? I actually preferred the ocean catfish but would love to try the other prepared another way.

            4 Replies
            1. re: cassis

              I just looked up ocean catfish and it is nothing like the catfish I have eaten. Ocean catfish is similar to roughie, and looks nothing like a catfish I know. Catfish we used to catch in New Orleans had "whiskers" on their face.
              I have never seen them fried whole, the catfish we used to catch were much too big to do that, you would fillet them and fry them up with some good cornmeal.......how I miss fish fried in cornmeal.

              1. re: roro1831

                Ocean catfish is a totally different animal, part of the Cod family. It's a very poor quality fish with milky, tasteless flesh.

                Fresh water cat does come in some varieties although they are related. Channel cat can be quite large - often too large to fry whole, so they are almost always fileted. But other catfish (like bullhead) can be small enough to fry whole. When I was in Mississippi, there was an all you can eat catfish place near my base in Biloxi, and theirs were always whole cat, cleaned and then dredged in cornmeal and fried whole. But there were other places that served channel cat, in filet form.

                The muddiness depends on what they've been eating. As bottom feeders, their diet can vary considerably. I actually like a little of the muddiness, it reminds me of the anago (fresh water eel) or carp I grew up with in Japan, also oily fleshed, bottom feeders, living in the rice paddies and the creeks that fed them. I find that the farmed catfish is much less muddy than the fresh caught ones I used to have in the past - obviously they've been fed a cleaner meal - I believe that the same is happening with Tilapia.

                Catfish and Tilapia are both sustainably farmed in the US. The Asian farms apparently don't all meet the same criteria. I just wish they could get the price down some more. It's typically $4.99 to $5.99/lb fileted - I'd eat a lot more of it at $3-$4. The problem is that there aren't a lot of ways to spread out the meat (like stews or ground meat) - so you really need to figure on 8oz per person or more. So it isn't a cheap meal - unless you can catch it yourself! (Stinkbait anyone?)

                1. re: applehome

                  Anago is sea eel. Unagi is fresh water eel. Anago is IMO much more delicate with a sweet taste, no muddy taste at all.

                  High quality unagi hardly has any muddy taste either.

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    You're right - sorry about that. My uncle would catch them in holes in the sides of the rice paddies when they were flooded.