Swai (pronounced s-WHY) is from Southeast Asia and bears the scientific name Pangasianodon hypophthalmus. It is a white-flesh fish, with a flaky texture that makes it ideal for broiling, grilling, or frying.
Other names for Swai are Basa, Sutchi, Tra, River Catfish, Vietnamese Catfish, Iridescent Shark, and Striped Pangasius. I ate my first Swai the other day and it was delicious. It may have been the tastiest fish I have ever eaten and was also inexpensive.
The package I bought was 2lbs, 6 fillets, flash-frozen, and individually sealed in plastic. I just opened them, placed them on a cookie sheet with virgin olive oil, added salt and pepper, and baked at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.
According to the USDA, one 4-ounce fillet of swai provides about:
15 grams protein
1.5 grams fat
350 milligrams sodium (varies)
45 milligrams cholesterol
Don’t eat it raw, rare, or medium-rare, but do prepare it like any other white fish by frying, baking, grilling, or steaming. It holds up well to being battered and deep-fried and can take the heat of an open flame without falling apart. Now I’ll tell you what some are saying about the dangers of eating Swai.
Native to Southeast Asia, they’re extremely common in the Mekong River, especially its delta in Vietnam. The way Swai are raised in fish farms is a major concern. It is believed that these stressed fish are more likely to have diseases and need antibiotic treatments.
DISTRIBUTION: Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.)
MAX SIZE: 110 lb / 50 kg
MAX LENGTH: 64 inch / 165 cm
MAX AGE: 20 years (approx)
Mis-labeling is very common and you probably have eaten Swai without knowing. It is extremely easy to pass off as any white-fleshed species. Mistakes are made but it is easy to see that fraud is common being that Swai is so much more inexpensive than other species. They taste a lot like the American Catfish and their sale has been banned in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi where catfish is a huge industry. They give health concerns but it is easy to see it’s all about the money.
If you are concerned then you should opt for a product with an eco-certification program label. Some labels to look for are ASC Farmed Pangasius, Naturland and BAP Certified. Cook the fish thoroughly and just eat it every once in a while and even if some of the concerns are true they will be easily avoided.