I’m here to make the case for eating imported (Indochinese farmed) catfish.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve probably always grown up on U.S. born and bred catfish…and there is probably nothing better than catching a catfish yourself and eating it, sure. But in case you’ve never heard of Swai, or you’ve steered clear of it because of something you’ve read, I’m here to try and convince you to give it a shot.
Countries in Indochina—mainly Vietnam—started importing catfish to the US in the late 90’s and early oughts. That made US catfish farmers insanely mad…their profits were in jeopardy by the cheaper (and better tasting) Vietnamese catfish. The US farmers sought help from Congress and the USDA, and in 2002, the USDA issued a series of directives and regulations for imported catfish.
The biggest blow to the imported catfish industry was that they were no longer allowed to market their fish as “catfish” anymore. Their fish were a different species, sure, but they were still in the catfish family. That’s why when you go to the grocery store now you either see Swai or Basa filets sold next to US catfish filets and nuggets.
Unless you live next to an ocean, almost all of the seafood and fish at a supermarket or grocery store has been previously frozen. So, even though most people think fresh seafood and fish is better tasting, it’s almost impossible to get it in most parts of this country. Swai filets hold up in freezing temperatures well. They are a thinner and longer filet than that of US catfish, and the most drastic difference is their taste; they have a much cleaner taste.
The Swai are typically raised in rice paddies, which filter water and give the fish this light, clean taste. It’s pretty well known that catfish are bottom feeders, and you can usually find them in mud holes at the bottom of lakes and rivers. That means that they can have quite a bit of grit and a real fishy taste when cooked. The imported version typically lacks that gritty taste.
So, if I haven’t fully convinced you to make the switch, at LEAST give Swai a shot. Only you can decide which fish you prefer!
I, myself, choose the Swai. My grocer sells the filets for $2.99/pound, so the other day I picked up four filets to make a Creole favorite: blackened catfish.
All you need to make this dish is an extremely hot pan, some “blackening seasoning” (I usually use Tony’s Blackened Redfish Magic or Zatarain’s) and a HIGH tolerance for smoke—and maybe a REALLY AWESOME vent-a-hood!
I whipped up a Cajun remoulade to dip the fish in as well…remoulade is basically tartar sauce with capers (and hot sauce!). It’s usually spread on bread for po’boys and sandwiche, but I though it would taste good with this fish dish!
Blackened Catfish with Cajun Remoulade
- 4 Swai Catfish Filets
- Blackening seasoning
- 3 TBS. butter, melted
- 2 TBS. vegetable oil
For the Cajun Remoulade
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 TBS. capers
- 2 TBS. sweet gherkins, chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 TBS. parsley
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- Dash of hot sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce!)
1. Clean and pat dry fish filets. Brush melted butter on both sides of the fish. Rub blackening seasoning ALL OVER both sides of the fish so it is evenly coated.
2. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Lay fish filet over hot oil, and fry for 4 minutes (don’t be scared if it smokes A LOT—it’s supposed to do that!). Flip and cook fish for 4 minutes on the other side. Fish should be blackened or dark brown on both sides. Remove from pan and place fish on a platter. Continue with other fish filets.
3. Make the remoulade: combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use!
4. Serve fish hot with remoulade. Enjoy!
I adore blackened fish. It’s so spicy and salty and this recipe PERFECTLY cooks the fish. Do you like catfish? Have you ever tried Swai? Let me know in the comments below!
PS- If you are wondering what that corn thing is on my plate, that’s another Cajun specialty! Stay tuned for that recipe in the coming days 🙂