Identification & Biology: Swai have fins which are dark grey or black. Juveniles have a black stripe along the lateral line and a second black stripe below the lateral line. Juveniles also have shiny, iridescent skin which is why they have the name Iridescent Shark. Larger adults on the other hand are uniformly grey and lack both the striping and the iridescent quality. Adults reach up to 4 feet (130 cm) in length and can weigh up to a maximum of 97 lb (44 kg).
Range & Habitat: Swai fish are a fresh water fish found in the Mekong River basin of Southeast Asia as well as the Chao Phraya river system. Swai has also been introduced into other river basins in the region. Occurs in high estuary (freshwater tidal zone) as juveniles, moving to brackish water as sub-adults, and finally as adults to river mouths and inshore areas. Longevity given as 10 years but appears too low. Feeds on snails, other mollusks and plants. Reared for consumption in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam; excellent food fish with very white fine grained sweet flesh.
Market Description: Swai is a Catfish from Vietnam which has a milder flavor and more delicate texture than our native catfish, and may therefore be more approachable for people who do not normally care for catfish. Swai are moist, sweet and mild flavored with beige colored flesh which is coarser and more grainy textured than basa. In Vietnam, Basa fish are preferred over Swai because of its more delicate flake and sweeter flavor. Because the Vietnamese like Basa better, and since Swai grows more quickly, more Swai is shipped to the US markets than Basa.
Buying Tips: The quality of catfish is dependent upon the water conditions and feed.
Recommended Preparation: pan frying, baking, broiling