Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hey! What's Swai?

From what I’ve read, it’s mostly just a fancy name for catfish, designed to get you to think you’re getting something special instead of plain old catfish. (Note: It's farmed in Vietnam, in case you're concerned about imported fish.) My favorite seafood cookbook, Jane Brody’s Good Seafood Book, which came out in 1994, doesn’t mention Swai, but does talk about catfish. Here’s what she had to say about catfish.

Fish with similar taste and texture to catfish - carp, mullet, perch, porgy, salmon trout, sea bass, smelt, Spanish mackerel, striped bass, tilefish, and walleye

Fish with similar taste but more delicate texture than catfish – pollack, sea trout, trout and whiting

Fish with similar taste but firmer texture than catfish – char, grouper, mahi-mahi, and red snapper

Fish with similar texture but more delicate flavor than catfish – blackfish, cod, croaker, halibut, ocean pout, pike, pompano, redfish, skate, triggerfish, turbot, wahoo, and whitefish

Fish with similar texture but stronger flavor than catfish – bluefish, eel, mackerel, pomfret, sablefish, salmon, and yellowtail

What I found when I cooked some was that it fell apart easily and didn’t taste particularly fishy. I guess I would call that delicate taste and texture, though Jane Brody’s book calls them both medium.

You can use catfish or Swai in any recipe that calls for any of the fish listed above, though of course you need to consider the size of the pieces, too. Substituting Swai nuggets for a halibut steak, for example, wouldn’t work, though you could use the same seasonings and adjust the cooking time and method for the smaller pieces.

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