Pangasius fish, also known as the Vietnamese catfish or basa fish, has gained popularity in recent years for its affordability and earthy sweet taste. It is native to Southeast Asia, particularly the Mekong River basin, and is widely cultivated for commercial purposes. There are many popular questions surrounding it: What is it? Is it safe to eat? Why is it so cheap? Let’s find the answers to these questions and also discover how to cook this fish for everyday meals.
What is Pangasius?
Pangasius is a type of freshwater fish that hails from the rivers of Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, belonging to the Pangasiidae family. This fish has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its mild taste and versatility in the culinary world.
- Appearance: The fish has a distinct appearance. It has a sleek, elongated body with a flat, broad head and smooth, scaleless skin. It typically has a silver or grayish color on its body, which may vary depending on the specific species.
- Size: Pangasius can grow to significant sizes, with adults reaching lengths of up to 4-5 feet (120-150 cm) and weighing around 40-60 pounds (18-27 kg). However, commercially available pangasius fish are usually harvested at a younger age and smaller size.
- Flavor and Texture: The flesh of this fish is white, lean, and tender with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It has a firm texture that holds up well in various cooking methods.
- Nutritional Profile: The fish is a good source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D, iron, potassium, and calcium. One fillet (140g or 5 oz) of pangasius contains 26g of protein and 0 carbohydrates. It is also relatively low in calories (only 200) and fat (10g), making it a healthier choice compared to some other types of fish. To compare, 140g or 5oz of salmon includes 292 calories and 18g of fat.
Is Pangasius Safe to Eat?
As there are several doubts about the food safety of pangasius, it is essential to learn about how it comes to the supermarket from the farms. Pangasius produced for the international market undergoes rigorous quality control measures to ensure its suitability for consumption. These measures include regular inspections, adherence to international standards, and testing for any harmful substances. For example, to be imported to the EU, pangasius fillet has to comply with EU safety standards with very strict regulations on maximum levels of heavy metals in fish and pharmacologically active substances and residues.
When purchasing this type of fish, it is recommended to opt for frozen fillets sought in the supermarket, which all comply with food safety standards to be frozen and exported.
Why is Pangasius So Cheap?
One of the primary reasons behind the affordability of pangasius fish is its efficient farming practices. Farming involves large-scale production that benefits from economies of scale, allowing for lower production costs, along with low labor costs in ASEAN countries. Furthermore, the fast growth rate of pangasius fish contributes to its abundance in the market, making it more accessible and affordable to consumers.
It is worth noting that the lower price point of pangasius fish does not compromise its quality or nutritional value. With proper cooking methods, it can still be a nutritious and delicious option.
How to Cook Pangasius Fish
Cooking pangasius fish is a simple and enjoyable process that allows for creativity in the kitchen. Here are some recommended cooking methods:
Cooking Frozen Pangasius Fillet:
When working with frozen pangasius fillets, it is important to thaw them properly before cooking. Begin by rinsing the fillets with tap water to remove any ice crystals. Place the fillets in the refrigerator and let them thaw slowly. Once thawed, pat them dry with a paper towel.
To add flavor, marinate the fillets with your favorite herbs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary, green onion along with spices like garlic, shallots, ginger, salt and pepper. This will enhance the taste and aroma of the fish.
For skillet frying, heat oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the defrosted fillets in the skillet and cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, flipping them halfway through. The fish is fully cooked when the meat turns white and becomes soft enough to easily flake with a fork.
Alternatively, you can bake thawed pangasius fillets in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and wrap the fillets in aluminum foil. Bake them for 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and can be easily flaked.
Creative Dishes with Pangasius:
If you’re looking for a simple yet flavorful recipe to satisfy your taste buds, pangasius fish with tomato sauce is an excellent choice. To make this dish, you just need two key ingredients: the fillets and tomato sauce, and some other seasonings.
Begin by thawing and cutting the fillets in to bite-sized pieces. Stir-fry them then simmer in tomato sauce for a while, that’s almost all for this dish!
If you are looking for a 15-minute recipe for your frozen Basa/ Pangasius Fish, this Baked Pangasius Fish is for you. Quick, cheap, healthy and super easy to make, this is one of my reccommended for a busy day. Whether you’re a busy parent looking for a quick dinner idea or someone seeking a healthier meal option, Baked Basa Fish fits the bill. You can just take several basa fillets from freezer, season a bit and throw them into the oven.
Because this is a native fish in Vietnam, Vietnamese cuisine offers a variety of delicious dishes that incorporate it. Here are a couple of creative Vietnamese recipes you can try:
This flavorful hotpot is a popular dish in Vietnam and showcases the versatility of pangasius fish. To prepare this dish, start by stir-frying minced garlic, minced shallots, chopped lemongrass, tomatoes, and pineapple in a pot with your choice of cooking oil, such as cashew kernel oil or other suitable alternatives like sunflower, canola, or peanut oil. Sauté the ingredients until they become soft and release an aromatic fragrance.
Next, add water to the pot and season with salt, sugar, and a splash of lemon or tamarind juice to achieve the desired taste. Then, add a variety of vegetables like morning glory, banana cabbage, or other local options, along with pangasius fillets. Allow the hotpot to come to a boil, ensuring that the fish is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender. Serve the hotpot alongside rice noodles for a satisfying and comforting meal.
Lemongrass is a wonderful ingredient which can elevate the taste of every type of meat, fish or tofu, such as lemongrass tofu or chicken. Native in Southeast Asia, with a pleasant but unique aroma, it becomes a perfect herb for cooking, besides used in extracting essential oil for treatment therapy and relaxation. So, why not combining lemongrass and basa fish (pangasius fish)? With lemongrass chili basa fish recipe, the mild flavor and tender texture of basa fish is a perfect match with the aroma of lemongrass.
This steamed dish brings out the delicate flavors of pangasius fish while keeping it moist and tender. Start by marinating the fillets in soy sauce, minced garlic, and grated ginger for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to penetrate the fish and infuse it with a savory taste.
Once marinated, steam the pangasius fillets for approximately 10 minutes or until they are thoroughly cooked. Steaming retains the natural flavors and preserves the fish’s moisture, resulting in a light and healthy dish. Serve the dish with soy sauce over a bed of steamed rice or alongside stir-fried vegetables for a well-rounded meal.
- 2 fillets of pangasius fish (or more)
- Herbs (optional): oregano, thyme, rosemary, green onion...
- Spices: salt and sugar, ginger, shallot, garlic, chilli...
- Oil or butter
- A skillet & stovetop or oven
- Step 1. Defrost: Begin by rinsing the fillets with tap water to remove any ice crystals. Place the fillets in the refrigerator and let them thaw slowly. Once thawed, pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Step 2. Marinate: marinate the fillets with your favorite herbs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary, green onion along with spices like garlic, shallots, ginger, salt and pepper. This will enhance the taste and aroma of the fish.
Step 3. Cook:
- Stovetop: heat oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the defrosted fillets in the skillet and cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, flipping them halfway through. The fish is fully cooked when the meat turns white and becomes soft enough to easily flake with a fork.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and wrap the fillets in aluminum foil. Bake them for 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and can be easily flaked.