In the southern USA catfish is as ubiquitous as fish and chips in Britain. In a similar way the best is a matter of great debate and opinions will vary but very little is written which says how to make the best out of catfish.
At this point most of my friends would say “where can you get catfish in Britain?”
It’s a good question.
There isn’t a slab on ice at the supermarket. There isn’t a section in the freezers of catfish fillets.
Or is there?
Look closer. Often labelled as Basa or Pangasius the white muscular fish fillets, boneless and often frozen are exactly that. They may not be noodled out of a local creek but these fish are catfish.
The Pangasius is a distant Asian cousin of the American catfish.
There is a lot of controversy about this fish. Heavily farmed in Vietnam – antibiotic resistance and heavy metals – much of the controversy is applicable to other fish farms, seafood and much of the food we consume globally.
We can reduce all risks and maybe we should only eat rod caught wild pollock. Unfortunately, the seas have been exploited and fish farms are required. But just as most live edible protein rearing in the world involves an element of the distasteful. Fish is a tough one. Do you really know where your prawns come from? Your tins of tuna. Your salmon “steaks”. Perhaps we should ask more questions.
I may be wrong but I think I remember the late Anthony Bourdain famously said “one in 12 oysters has campylobacter… eat 11 and order another dozen…”
If yu want the facts go here
This page isn’t about that though. This is about catfish. And in particular how to cook it.
Catfish whether out of the creek or a panga fillet from the supermarket is a meaty whitefish. Its freshwater and isn’t very fishy. It has a subtle almost scampi like scent about it. It isn’t earthy either, unlike a lot of freshwater fish. It’s got a dense texture which holds the fillets together.
Ways to cook catfish vary. Blackened, deep fried, battered and breaded. My personal favourite is to dredge it in flavoured cornflour. Kind of like classic al meunier but with coarse grain cornflour (or polenta).
The flavouring is up to you. I like to add Louisiana fish fry products Cajun blackening seasoning, Slapyamama or my go to the wonderful smallbatch rarity from Dallas, Texas, Andy Ludwigs goodtime Andy’s seasoning.
A teaspoon of this in a half cup of coarse cornmeal and just dredge the filets through it. This is not about a thick batter. No eggs or buttermilk. Just a very thin coating to allow the fish to shine through.
Shallow frying pan (or skillet) and a thin hot oil. Probably 2-3 minutes each side and then drain on kitchen paper.
Serve it with salad, potato salad, chips or on a soft bun with lettuce and tartare sauce. A bottle of Louisiana hot sauce is a must – I like crystal but tabasco is perfect.