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What is swai fish?

I see this always in my supermarket (frozen and at Wegmans here in NJ) but I have no idea what type of fish or what it even tastes like. I was going to buy it, but I figured I would first ask my pals here and see if it is worth it or not.

I have no recipe, as I did not even search yet!

Thanks so much for any help!!! :)

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  1. Short answer, Southeast Asian catfish. Longer answer involves the catfish family tree. It is is not bad, buttery even.

      1. It's an Asian catfish, & while not bad-tasting (I've tried it), I beg you NOT to buy it.

        For starters, all fish coming from Asia are raised under circumstances that are unbelievably frightening at best as far as health concerns. For seconds, markets that purchase this crap do so because it's cheap, thereby undermining our local fresh farm-raised catfish.

        Please, PLEASE do NOT BUY "SWAI"!!! You're undermining your own health, plus your local, & HEALTHIER, catfish farmers.

        21 Replies
        1. re: Bacardi1

          The swai sold in local supermarkets here in upstate NY is all locally-farmed.

          1. re: PSZaas

            Are you absolutely sure about that? Because according to the U.S. Farmed Catfish Association, there are no Swai farm-raised anywhere in the United States. It's all imported.

            1. re: Bacardi1

              You might be right. The sign at my local supermarket says "locally farmed," but I'm thinking that's only true if you're living in Vietnam, since I can't find any hint that there's farmed catfish anywhere in the NE.

              1. re: PSZaas

                Swai is a negotiated import treaty term. It CANNOT be swai if it is from the USA.

          2. re: Bacardi1

            Aren't vendors required to publish the country of origin of fish? I see that some places do it and it certainly is printed on packaged seafood like frozen scallops and shrimp. I will not buy ANY seafood coming from China, having seen enough newspaper stories of filthy conditions and total lack of regulatory law. I like to think that Thailand is a bit better but invite comments from any who know this not to be true and I will give that up too. I noticed just today at Jewel (big chain in Chicago) that swai of mysterious origin was $3.99 lb while US-farmed catfish was $8.99 lb---there must be a reason.

            1. re: Bacardi1

              I hope you realize that you are throwing out unverified propaganda (LIES) fabricated by a scared and greedy Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) in an attempt to stifle foreign competition.An independent study reveals that many Vietnamese fishery farms are cleaner and more efficient than some of our local CFA farms. Get educated on the issue.

              http://www.chefs-resources.com/Is-Vie...

              http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/02...

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

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

              1. re: mrtunk

                Three things I don't/choose to put in my mouth.....Chewing tobacco, Chicken Shit, and Fish from the dooky ditches (their tributaries) and sewage lagoons of SE Asia.....However if you choose to promote, import, enjoy, etc...........

                Fun & Bon Appetit!!

                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Just curious if you have personally travelled to SE Asia and have witnessed this? Thanks, Di

                  2. re: mrtunk

                    You do realize that the Monterey Bay Aquarium report you linked to recommends AGAINST purchasing swai, basa, and Asian-farmed catfish:

                    "Basa, Pangasius and Swai are used interchangeably when referring to two species of farmed river catfish from Asia. Catfish farmed in the U.S. is considered a "Best Choice," as it's farmed in a more ecologically responsible manner."

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      Huh?? The MBA Seafood Watch guide (mrtunk's link) classifies these as a "Good Alternative". Yes, they do identify American farmed catfish as a "Best Choice" but absolutely are NOT recommending against purchasing Asian Swai (Basa, Pangasius).

                      1. re: ratgirlagogo

                        YES, I AGREE. IT SEEMS AS THOUGH MANY PEOPLE THINK THEIR ONE IN THE SAME, BUT CLEARLY THEIRS AT LEAST 2 DIFFERENT SPECIES. I'VE SEEN EACH NAME ON BAGS OF BOTH AT THE GROCERY STORE. THANKS!

                        -TDR-

                      2. re: mrtunk

                        We had it for dinner this evening for the first time and we're not impressed. Never again.

                        1. re: Violapie

                          You need to know how to prepare this fish to get the best results

                          1. re: kalama

                            There's no way that anyone should be eating swai. yes, it's something cheap from S.E. Asia, that even they would never eat. I spoke to a woman who was preparing to buy it - she was excited that it was $1.99 lb. and stated that it tasted good but her Cat Wouldn't eat it. Why on earth would a human eat something that an animal won't. Yes, I've been to S.E. Asia and NO, we should not be buying and eating that crap. I have been protesting for years against selling Talapia, Swai, and other fake fish to Americans.

                            1. re: louvog

                              Relax. We eat plenty of things cats don't, and cats don't represent the rest of the animal kingdom when it comes to food choices.

                              I'm not sure what your definition of "fake" fish is.

                              1. re: redbanner

                                My cat didn't like fish. He liked to sit on the counter and watch me clean speckled trout and redfish, but didn't care for it. He did go wild for the trimmings of fajita meat.

                      3. re: Bacardi1

                        Oh crap...I had some reservations about Swai because it's so inexpensive...I just endorsed it to someone else [Sorry Angelina) I don't really care for catfish, and I found Swai to have a milder favor unlike Tilapia which has no favor at all to me...Thanks for you info

                        1. re: Mslola53

                          Swai is not Catfish, it's compared to catfish cause it has some similarities! It's actually one of the best tasting farm raised fish out there if prepared correctly.

                        2. re: Bacardi1

                          I've read from many different sources quite the opposite...I'm assuming you are somehow tied to the "home grown" fish industry

                          stop the propoganda

                        3. Ah, I hate to read about the health concerns. I *love* swai. I am not a fish-person. I love shell fish but for some reason fin fish is often malodorous for me and tastes too fishy and I can't even swallow fish if it is too fishy. Swai is extremely mild tasting and the flesh is tender and creamy...a really nice texture. I use it for fish-fry and fish curries. Of the cheapo grocery store pre-frozen fish, like compared to tilapia and other usual suspects, swai tastes a million times better. I shudder to think about how dirty it must be. So that is fish advice from a person who doesn't like fish, but just my two cents for whatever it is worth.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: luckyfatima

                            Yeah...I really can't answer as to the politics of the thing...nor do I care to. But swai (which I used to find called 'basa') is a channel catfish, which is to say, a BIG catfish...which means it can be cut into nice big fillets, unlike most of the other catfish I can purchase, which comes in small chunks. It is also inexpensive, mild, meaty, and I use it anywhere I would use cod (which is much more expensive) or tilapia(which often tastes muddy to me).

                            1. re: tonifi

                              No, "channel catfish" is the North American fish. Swai is not even a member of the same family, and may not be called "catfish" for sale as food.

                              http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Panga...

                              1. re: GH1618

                                Ok, not only are you incorrect about "Channel Catfish" being only the North America variety, you are wrong about the two being of different Families. If you research the two different fish using the fishbase.com link you provided, you can find that the "Channel Catfish" is also native to six other countries , and are the exact same species. Further more the Swai variety is not only the same Family as "Channel Catfish", it is also of the same Genus, differing only in Species.

                                http://www.fishbase.org/ComNames/Comm...
                                http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Panga...
                                http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Ictal...

                                1. re: mrtunk

                                  You should read more carefully; you seem to have some trouble with biological charts.  I did not write that channel catfish are found only in North America, but the native North American channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, is in the family Ictaluridae (North American freshwater catfishes).  Swai, Pangasian hypophthalmus, is in the family Pangasiidae (shark catfishes).  Both are in the order Siluriformes.  They are distant cousins.     

                            2. re: luckyfatima

                              My brother also can't/won't eat most fish for the same reason-too fishy. He liked the swai at the local fish restaurant. I then found out it was a form of catfish! He keeps kosher and I don't have the heart to tell him what we were eating wasn't kosher! Would really have appreciated it if it had been labeled as a type of bottom feeder.

                              1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                does it still count as a bottom-feeder when living in a pen eating corn/soy pellets? not being snarky, truly curious?

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  Yes because the fish has no scales and kosher laws require the fish go have scales...God is a picky eater.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    Sorry for the late reply. The real issue with swai is no fins, no scales so it's not kosher. It's in the same order as catfish. It would be a bottom-feeder if it could be.

                                  2. re: Kate is always hungry

                                    Leaving the Kosher issue out of it, I think labeling a product a "Bottom Feeder" would likely decrease sales.

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      lol, yes that too, but i did seriously mean the kosher aspect?

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Good question. Most of the freshwater trout for sale in the stores are raised in hatcheries and fed a diet consisting of the pellets you speak of. Its been years since I have been to a hatchery but if my memory serves me correctly the pellets settle quickly to the bottom.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          I think it's the lack of scales rather than the bottom feeding that makes catfish treif.

                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                            ok, google is my friend:

                                            "The Torah says that fish or any creature that lives in the water must have both scales (kaskekset) and fins (senapir) in order to be considered Kosher."

                                            http://rabbibitton.blogspot.com/2010/...

                                            nothing about bottom-feeding.

                                      2. re: Kate is always hungry

                                        I know this post is old and I hate to say it but your brother wouldn't be eating kosher even if he was eating a piece of salmon in the restaurant.

                                        1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                          Your brother can always google a list such as this http://www.chabad.org/library/article...

                                          I also only eat fish that are considered Kosher so I've used lists - some fish have more than one name, and different names in foreign countries, so it's helpful to google.

                                      3. Swai aka Vietnamese catfish have a very bad reputation down here. It's what unscrupulous fishmongers and restaurant owners will try to pass off as other much more expensive mild whitefish like grouper or snapper in the name of saving a few bucks, at least in the short term. (If you get caught by the state, it's a $1000 fine per incident.)

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: beachmouse

                                          These are the people giving Swai / Basa a bad name. Swai / Basa, really great fish in its own right.

                                          1. re: mrtunk

                                            What is the nature and extent of your relationship to the marketing of Swai or Basa in North America?

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              Obviously there is some kind of connection... the only posts they've made are on this thread... and they blew it up!

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                My relationship is, "FAN" as I seriously like Swai / Basa. It seems like there is a lot of CFA backers hanging out here.