In our house, we loves us some catfish. It’s a great fish all around: it has a nice meaty texture, is sweet-tasting (forget what you’ve heard about “muddy” catfish: today’s farmed catfish doesn’t carry this flavor at all), and best of all, it resists overcooking like a champ. But, but, BUT…it’s expensive. And—unless you live near an actual fishmonger—you can’t buy it without a sauce already appended, leaving those of us with kids who have, ahem, discerning tastes out of luck.
Enter basa, AKA Vietnamese catfish. This stuff is awesome: all the goodness of fresh catfish, at half the price! In fact, I like it a bit more than catfish at the counter, as it’s a bit milder and sweeter tasting, making it an easy sell to the kid. The catch? It’s frozen. I tend to think of this as an advantage, though, for two reasons. One: I don’t have to cook it the same day I bought it. Two: since nearly all fish at the counter is “previously frozen” anyway, I am no longer paying for the privilege of someone else defrosting it for me. It’s pretty easy to defrost, too; just submerge in cold tap water for an hour or two, then drain and pat dry with paper towel. Voilà! Fresh fish exactly the way I want it!
To season basa just like the store’s catfish, rub on a tablespoon of olive oil and about two teaspoons Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, or other seasoning of your choice (I love Rachael Ray’s Israeli Spice Rub) per fillet. Cook immediately, or wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours after defrosting.