Friday, June 26, 2009

Product of Thailand - Farm Raised Swai

What the heck is ‘swai’?

Like many people interested in healthful eating, I strive to incorporate more fish into my diet, especially varieties like salmon and herring, which contain plenty of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Problem is, fresh seafood costs a bundle. When I visited my local fish monger here in Yonkers, N.Y., recently, I couldn’t believe my eyes: nearly $20 a pound for swordfish, halibut, sole, and $9 for trout, which in the past had always been tasty and less costly alternative.
Ever since prices started climbing, I’ve seen an influx of alien species -- alien to me, at least -- particularly at my neighborhood supermarkets, which cater to customers who, frankly, can’t afford to plunk down $20 a pound for fish.

One economical option popping up at many stores is swai, which is native to Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia -- and sells locally for around $3.99 a pound. Since I knew nothing about swai, I asked Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, for a primer.

Gibbons explained that swai, along with basa and tra, two related varieties also appearing at more and more stores, belong to what’s called the Pangasius family and they’re similar in character to catfish.

In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which has an authoritative site that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the fish that end up on our dinner plates, describes swai as a river-farmed catfish, sometimes simply referred to in the U.S. only as catfish (be sure to look for country of origin labeling at the fish counter to determine whether your catfish is from the Mekong Delta or the Mississippi Delta).

Swai is a white-flesh fish (typically available in fillet form) with a sweet mild, taste and light flaky texture that can be broiled, grilled, or coating with bread crumbs and fried, according to experts. It can be prepared simply, but also takes well to sauces. A 3.5-ounce serving of plain fish contains around 90 calories, 4 grams of fat (1.5 saturated), 45 grams of cholesterol and 50 milligrams of sodium. Not bad.

I’m planning to cook up a few fillets one of these days and give them a try. If you do the same, let me know what you think. Write to cro dot consumer dot org. For complete Ratings and recommendations on appliances, cars & trucks, electronic gear, and much more, subscribe today and have access to all of


Better Tasting
Savored for their sweet, mild flavor and light, flaky texture, Basa and Swai have been compared to cod, sole and flounder, and are great for everyday use. Whether baked, broiled, grilled or fried, these versatile fish are mild enough to work with any white fish recipe yet flavorful enough to shine on their own. Try one of our recipes, use one of your old favorites, or submit a recipe of your own! Any way you cook them, Australis Basa and Swai fillets are sure to become a favorite in your kitchen!

Better For You
Naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, Basa and Swai are excellent source of lean protein. They also provide omega 3 fatty acids which are known offer significant health benefits. Our hand-cut fillets are processed within hours of harvest, locking in their natural flavor and freshness.
As with all Australis products, our Basa and Swai are laboratory tested to assure they are free of hormones, antibiotics, mercury and other contaminants, and are guaranteed to meet the FDA’s strict import standards. They are also processed under the
supervision of the US Department of Commerce’s Seafood Inspection Program to ensure food safety and purity.

Better For Our Environment
Leading U.S. environmental groups rate Basa/Swai a “Good Alternative” for sustainability. Farmed in earthen ponds by small, family-owned growers, our fish are harvested from pristine waters that are regularly drained, tilled, limed and sun baked to conform with Australis’ natural and sustainable management practice.
Basa and Swai eat a largely vegetarian diet, which helps take pressure off wild fisheries. Recycling of the cuttings from our processing facility make new fish meal which is used to feed shrimp and other fish. This results in a net increase in fish biomass. Now that’s doing fish farming right.

About Basa and Swai
The name ‘Basa’ is commonly used to refer to two species of fish that are native to the famous Mekong Delta river in Vietnam. Both Authentic Basa and Swai have exploded in popularity around the world, particularly in Europe where they are enjoyed as sustainable alternatives to declining wild stocks of cod, flounder, sole and haddock.
Farmers in southern Vietnam have been growing Basa and Swai using traditional methods for more than 30 years. Abundant natural waters provide an ideal growing environment, and stringent quality control guarantees consistency and quality. Authentic Basa is considered somewhat superior to Swai, with slightly thicker fillets and a finer texture. Both fish there are called by different names in various parts of the world, including Tra, Panga and Vietnamese Catfish (even though they’re not the same species as US catfish).

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