Sunday, March 7, 2010

Basa - Yah, We Can Eat It

After the visit to Caribe Fisheries, Inc. I was pretty excited to find an alternative to Tilapia. Not that I don't like Tilapia, but it is good to know what other possibilities taste like before committing to a particular fish. We will probably end up with 2 500 gallon tanks and will try to grow enough fish to have one meal a week (approximately 100 plus pounds a year). All this may change when I take the aquaponics class in June and find out more about it. Our biggest constraint will be power - since we are on solar there is only so much power we can dedicate to this project at night. We have to make sure we can power the pumps.
Anyway, when Jeff filleted the fish the skin peeled off really well and the smallish 2 pounders made nice, clean fillets. This is a big consideration since preparing a whole small fish can be a pain if it has scales and spines etc. The flesh was a little orange which surprised me since most catfish I've cooked before were most definitely white. My plans for the parts we don't eat are to feed them back to the fish, compost them, make fish stock etc.

We were hungry and I didn't want to do anything fancy - just wanted to see how the texture was and how they would hold up when cooked. I dredged the fillets in flour with a little salt and pepper and pan fried them in olive oil. Then I toasted some slivered almonds and deglazed with some of my newly made naranja agria (sour orange) marmalade. (Plant this tree - the oranges are great for marmalade and marinades.)
We have eaten catfish before,usually blackened, and had boingy parts - kind of rubbery parts. I don't like that. This fish did not have any chewy bits. It is a very mild fish with a softer texture than Tilapia which tends to be flaky. Tilapia is mild also. We can't grow any of our favorite fish and of course can't buy any here so Basa I think will be a good, sustainable choice - and that's what the whole thing is about anyway. Mike at Caribe Fisheries is using a fish food that is low in fish meal and high in soy and corn (I think) and that makes it more sustainable as well. Ideally I am hoping to stock our tanks (when we get set up) with Basa and Tilapia if the two fish can live in peace! Since their textures are different the variety would be good. It will also be more entertaining to see different things in the tanks (we hope to put shrimp in there too).

So the verdict is ....a thumbs up for Basa! Reasons you may want to eat it 1) it is sustainable (most of the chillo, or snapper, here comes from elsewhere since PR is fished out) 2) it is inexpensive 3) you can get it REALLY fresh 4) since it is mild it is versatile. If you can't grow it you now know where to get it. I tossed some fillets in the freezer to see how it holds up there but am told it freezes well.  So right now I am gathering information where ever I can about different set-ups and thinking about locations and supplies etc. has a nice forum and some photo samples of different systems. This will be a biggish project initially!


Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing your experience with preparing/cooking/eating Basa. I have eaten catfish here in the South, but I'm not a real fan. Perhaps is due to the species of catfish and Basa may be different.

A few decades ago, the Departamento de Recursos Naturales decided to populate the rivers and lakes of Puerto Rico with Tilapia. We used to call the fish "chopa". If you get them out of PR rivers, the chopa tends to taste a little bit different than the farmed fish. My guess is that they eat anything, including mud, specially when the rain season is over. Unfortunately, whatever native fish there was ended up totally replaced by the Tilapia. If you travel to Maricao, there is a "Vivero de Maricao" where they have a fishery with all kinds of large fish tanks. The vivero is fed from the local river and the water is returned back to the river. They may be able to provide additional information on the local native fish if you are interested.

Take care,

H Jr.

Anonymous said...

In case you are interested here is a link to the Vivero de Maricao website:

The local native species of fish is "guabina" and apparently the DRNA is trying to make sure it is not totally lost. Unfortunately, I have never seen this fish, but I'll try to make it to the Vivero next time I visit the island.


H Jr.