If you haven’t heard much about swai fish, that’s understandable because they’ve only recently made much of an impact on the international market.
Heavily eaten in several parts of the world, they are becoming more common in areas where this fish is not naturally available.
That means you may have no experience with swai fish and may not understand its taste or texture. Or you may go to a restaurant and see it on a menu and feel extremely confused.
You’re not the only one, which is why we wrote this long and in-depth article.
Here, you’ll learn exactly what swai taste like, get an idea of their texture, and understand recipes that utilize this fish.
Then, you’ll learn more about what other fish it tastes like and whether it is safe to eat or not. When you’re done reading, you’ll be a swai-fish pro!
What Are Swai Fish?
Swai fish are in the same family as catfish but look very different than what most people think of as a catfish.
They lack the large feelers you see in American catfish and are often more streamlined and narrower. Swai fish also lack the very large mouth common on most catfish.
They have started to become more widespread as commercial fish in recent years because they are inexpensive and a good substitute for many fish.
However, concerns about their farming methods and other issues have raised some concerns from specialists regarding their safety.
What Is The Known Swai Fish Flavor?
Swai fish is similar to many white fish because it has a very light flavor with a slight sweetness. It isn’t as sharp as the catfish, which can be a rather intense fish for many first-time eaters.
Swai fish isn’t bland but is smoother and more approachable than many other white fish.
This makes it a great option for various meals because it will absorb various flavors very well. It’s not uncommon to marinate and flavor swai fish to improve its taste. Even a light seasoning can do wonders for this mild but enjoyable fish.
What Does Swai Fish Look Like?
Swai fish are silver-to-gray fish with a streamlined body that looks very little a catfish. They have a simple top fin that is long and narrow at the top to produce a distinctive look.
Their stomach bulges slightly at the bottom to make them a little easier to spot.
Swai flesh is white when raw and becomes a lighter when cooked. Its fillets are usually quite thin but tasty and provide enough meat for most people.
The meat is typically not heavily layered as you find in other fish, which gives it a more solid look.
What Texture Does Swai Fish Have?
Swai fish has a fairly light texture that remains tender once cooked and flakes smoothly and easily under the fork.
This texture gives it a very palpable taste, one that many people enjoy. With fish, texture is very important because mushiness or softness can be a turn-off.
Thankfully, swai fish retains a fairly firm texture that only softens a little when cooked.
This isn’t true softness as such but a tenderness that makes the fish more enjoyable. That tender flesh can be flavored in many ways to make swai fish useful in many dishes.
Types Of Swai Fish
Swai fish are a singular species with minimal variations because they’re typically concentrated in a small area in Asia.
However, they may be sold by many names in different parts of the world, which can make it confusing and hard to find in some regions.
These other names include tra, striped catfish, sutchi, basa, Vietnamese catfish, and striped Pangasius. If you see any of these fish names advertised, they are the same as swai fish.
We even covered basa fish in another article that highlights important things about its taste and texture.
Where Does Swai Fish Come From?
Most swai fish you find on the market come from Vietnam, where they are heavily eaten. They come from various ponds, rivers, streams, and lakes throughout this country.
However, there are also swai fish in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and even in India.
Many swai fish get pulled from the Mekong Delta, which is one of the largest in the region. Unfortunately, this delta is heavily polluted and swai fish may be contaminated. As a result, swai fish farms have started opening up in some areas.
Is Swai Fish Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Swai Fish?
Swai fish has an average protein level but far less omega-3 fatty acids than other fish.
However, it also has very few calories, minimal cholesterol, and high levels of niacin, vitamin B12, and selenium. So while not the healthiest fish, it does provide many benefits.
However, swai fish may be exposed to heavy amounts of dangerous chemicals in their environment and are often considered at a high risk of mercury exposure.
Some health experts warm against eating them at all, while others state farm-grown fish are safer if the water is clean and maintained.
How Do You Eat Swai Fish?
Swai fish is typically eaten by cooking it fully and seasoning it with various flavors to enhance its flavors.
Swai is typically considered a fairly low-quality meat in some sectors, though its mild sweetness is enjoyable. As a result, it’s best to improve it in whatever ways you can use.
For example, it often serves well being battered and deep-fried, which adds a rich coating that gives it more taste.
It is also a good idea to flavor it with garlic and other similar spices to give it more taste. Doing so ensures that you get the best result from swai fish.
How Can I Store Swai Fish?
You can store fresh swai fish in your refrigerator for up to 3-4 days after purchase. After that time has passed, the fish is likely to start going bad.
Store it by carefully wrapping it in refrigerator-safe paper and storing it in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
Smoked or pickled swai fish, while not common, may be stored longer because their curing process naturally elongates their life.
It is important to regularly check on your swai fish during its storage period because spoiling can begin fairly quickly and is never pretty.
Can You Freeze Swai Fish?
Many suggest freezing swai fish until you’re ready to use it to ensure that it stays fresh as long as possible.
It can typically freeze for several months before going bad, sometimes up to six if the fish is fresh enough. Wrap in a freezer-safe plastic container to prepare it for this process.
After thawing the fish, you need to keep it in a sealed container and cook it within 24 hours.
Waiting any longer can cause the fish to become excessively soft and mushy. It can also cause your fish to spoil, which is always a bad experience for fish fans.
How To Tell If Swai Fish Is Bad?
You can tell if your swai fish is going bad if it has a very sharp smell with heavy undercurrents of fishiness.
Swai fish should have only a mild odor that is very easy to tolerate. If the smell is very intense, you need to throw it out to avoid getting sick.
You can also check swai fish freshness by looking at or testing the firmness of its flesh.
When you see black spots or signs of spoiling, such as mold, on your swai fish, it is time to throw it away. Your swai fish should never be mushy or have a sharp, potent odor.
Can You Eat Swai Fish Raw?
Swai fish is rarely eaten raw though some Vietnamese and Japanese dishes may use it. That’s because swai fish often has various parasites that make it dangerous to eat raw.
These parasites can spread into people’s bodies and may cause serious health problems.
These health risks make eating raw swai fish a very problematic choice. Furthermore, raw swai fish may also have a higher contamination risk, making it important to cook it.
Doing so will help make it safer and minimize your risk of sickness.
Do They Have Worms?
Eating raw or undercooked fish puts you at a very high risk of getting tape worms and other types of worms.
Swai are like other fish in that they are often a victim to various worms that spread through their intestines and flesh. It is important to properly prepare them to avoid this problem.
Otherwise, you might end up with various types of food poisoning and even worms in your body that may be life-threatening.
Cleaning a swai fish before cooking can help because you’ll open up the fish and check it for worms. Cooking it properly also helps to destroy many of these worms.
What Is The Best Way To Cook Swai Fish?
Swai fish have a mild taste that often requires grilling or frying to achieve the best results. These methods help to add flavor to the fish and make it firm without causing it to fall apart.
Grilling also ensures that you cook through the fish all the way to avoid contamination.
That’s because swai fish should be cooked well done but not rare or medium-rare. Their high potential for parasites and worms makes it important to cook them all the way.
This risk might make them seem unsafe, but just about every fish on the market has worms that need to be removed or killed through cooking.
How Do You Clean Swai Fish For Cooking?
Clean swai fish by carefully scaling their surface to remove any excessive scales that may otherwise get into your meat. You then cut a slit along their back to open them up.
Never cut a fish along the belly because you run the risk of puncturing their intestines and making a bad mess.
After slitting down the back, you can pull the fish open and remove the skeleton, the internal organs, and other items inside the fish.
You should now have a few fillets that you can cut away from the skin and cook after checking for worms and other parasites.
Are Swai Fish Poisonous To Eat?
Swai fish are not poisonous when grown in healthy and clean waters because they lack any poisonous sacs.
However, multiple health organizations have raised concerns about the high pollution levels common in rivers where swai fish are usually harvested.
As a result, it is important to investigate where you got swai fish and how they were tested before eating them. A high mercury poisoning risk is a real threat with this animal, particularly since it is a bottom-feeding fish like its cousin catfish.
Swai Fish Vs. Tilapia
Swai fish is very similar to tilapia in its taste and texture. They’re also very inexpensive and are commonly used in fish sticks and other low-quality fish types.
There’s no a heavy difference between these two in taste, though tilapia is a bit fattier.
The biggest concern for most shoppers is finding fresh swai. Because they’re often rare or only come from a limited source, they’re usually frozen.
Tilapia is more often fresh because it is found in many parts of the world, which makes it more palpable for many people.
How Do You Cook Swai Fish?
You can grill, sear, deep-fry, steam, broil, and bake swai fish, depending on the recipe.
That makes them a great option for many meals and an excellent choice for those who want a diverse fish option. Make sure you marinate it properly to get the best results.
Nutritional Value Table
|Nutritional Value in a Four-Once Swai Serving
Swai Fish Recipes: Quick Table
|Baked Swai With White Wine Sauce
Try this delicious swai fish recipe to improve its overall flavor and taste. Start by mixing white wine, lemon juice, salt, minced garlic, and butter in a bowl while your oven preheats to 375 degrees.
Cook them on the stove until they melt, and remove them from the heat before putting your fillets in a pan.
Season the fish fillets with salt and peppers, and then pour the sauce over the fillets before sprinkling them with fresh parsley. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes and serve with pasta, rice, or roasted vegetables.
This option is great for those who want a low-calorie and tasty meal.
Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes
If you have an air fryer that you’re dying to try with fish, this recipe will work well for you. It’s perfect for families because it creates freshly fried fish that kids are sure to love.
Prepare your air fryer basket with olive oil spray, and then coat the fillets with olive oil before seasoning.
Put the fillets in the air fryer for at least five minutes before slipping, cooking for another three, and then flipping for two more minutes. Serve with roasted potatoes seasoned with your favorite toppings.
This quick and easy meal is perfect for those low-effort days in the kitchen.
Total Preparation Time: 13 minutes
Are you strapped for time and ingredients but have some swai that you have to cook right now? Try this amazing meal to ensure your swai isn’t wasted.
Start by cleaning the swai fillets under water and then smearing them with salt, turmeric powder, and Cajun seasoning.
Now, cook the swai on both sides in a well-oiled pan on the stove. You can then serve the fish with roasted veggies to add a little health to the meal.
This is probably the easiest swai recipe to prepare on this list, but make sure you check its internal temperature to ensure it hits 145 degrees.
Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
What Common American Fish Does Swai Most Resemble?
Swai fish probably most closely resembles the Southern catfish, which is very popular in many Cajun-style meals. It has a similarly fatty fillet that soaks up various spices and marinades.
However, it also has a similar feel to tilapia and other types of mild white fish.
Why Is Swai Fish So Often Frozen?
Outside of Southeast Asia, swai fish is not available and must be frozen to be sent elsewhere. While some might ship live swai fish to fish shops and other areas, this option is quite rare.
As a result, you most typically find swai fish frozen in fish markets and other areas.
Should I Avoid Swai Fish?
Swai fish dangers are low if you’re careful about which fish you buy and make sure you find farm-grown options.
If you are nervous about swai fish, particularly mercury poisoning and contamination, there are other white fish very similar to this option.
Are There Alternatives To This Fish?
Swai fish alternatives include tilapia, cod, and other similar white fish. The standard Southern catfish is another good option if you like swai fish but are concerned about their safety.
These fish are also easier to find in most regions, making them excellent options.
Watch this video to learn more about how to cook a delicious pan-fried swai fish meal.
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