*Vietnamese Swai Fillets *
· Latin Names
· Catch Area
· Characteristics and Usage
· Special Issues
Two different species have been marketed in the U.S. under the names Vietnamese catfish, grey sole, Pacific dory, white river cobbler, yellow river cobbler, basa, tra and swai. Both species are in the catfish family. These cannot be marketed in the U.S. as catfish because the U.S. Catfish industry has lobbied through legislation to prohibit the use of the name for anything except catfish produced in the U.S. The species are Pangasius bocourti and Pangasius hypophthalmus.
These fish are pen raised on the Mekong River in Vietnam.
The primary market form for this product is skinless fillets.
Various size grades are available. Most typically these are under 170 gram, 170-225 gram, 225 gram up.
Although the product was originally sold both IQF and in layer packs with interleaved plastic sheets, now almost all product is the layer pack. Packers switching to layer packs was at least partly motivated by the efforts of many packers and importers to grossly short weight the product.
The fish eats very well. The bocourti species commonly known as Basa is whiter in color and has the highest fat content. Swai has lesser fat content and can be slightly pinkish or yellow. Both species cook up very nicely with a mild taste and firm texture.
These fish have become a very popular inexpensive center of the plate item as well as being heavily used for many dishes in Chinese restaurants.
There are problems to be dealt with. Quality is very inconsistent from packer to packer with extensive cheating in weights and species substitution. Workmanship can also be extremely poor on some packs. The second issue is an ongoing anti-dumping tariff that has been attached to the import of the product. The U.S. Catfish industry recognizes the quality of the imported product if packed by a reputable packer and realizes that there is no way they can compete with domestically raised fish.