Basa fish is a type of catfish, scientifically referred as Pangasius bocourti. It is also commonly called river cobbler, Vietnamese cobbler and swai.

Native to Vietnam, Basa fish is found abundantly in the waters of Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers, which pervade through several nations in Southeast Asia. Due to its low cost of breeding, harvesting, packaging and scalability, it is being widely exported to various countries all over the world, in the last decade.

Basa has a broad frame with a small head. It’s not a bony fish, and the its firm, pinkish flesh makes it popular in western cuisine as it can be cut into large fillets.

basa fish raw

The fish also has a mild smell, which makes it a popular choice for seafood dishes in restaurants. More recently, Basa fish is being incorporated into traditional Indian recipes, such as curries and fried fish preparations.

The rapidly growing restaurant industry also helped Basa’s popularity as the non-odorous fish also cooks very fast and is available all year round. In recent times however, the demand for Basa has skyrocketed, posing a challenge to breed vast sums in Vietnam alone and export it globally. Hence, the fish is being grown in other nations as well, including India, where it is termed ‘Indian Basa’, although it has minor differences in taste.

Health Benefits Of Basa

Basa fish became extremely popular due to myriad health benefits and significant nutritional value. Being less fatty and oily than other single-boned fish, it is perfect for those who are on a strict diet regimen to lose weight.

Its high protein content contributes towards building muscle mass and maintaining proper enzymatic function of cells in the body. Fat is also present in ample amounts in this fish, which is vital to regulate body temperature as well as to fulfill energy and developmental requirements.

Basa contains the Omega-3 fatty acids – DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), which is very effective in reducing the risk of heart ailments. This moderately lean fish variety is apt for those looking to cut down on carbs in their diet, as well as for people with blood pressure fluctuations, being naturally low on sodium.

basa fish fillets

Nutritional Benefits Of Basa Fish

The nutrient value of Basa fish is typical of every kind of white fish, which naturally have decreased levels of calorie content and vast proportions of better-quality proteins.

Every 100 grams serving of Basa fish provides:

Calories            90

Protein             13 grams

Fat                     4 grams

Saturated Fat  1.5 grams

Cholesterol      45 mg

Carbohydrates 0 grams

Sodium              50 mg

In addition to this, Basa also provides ample amounts of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids namely DHA and EPA, which are crucial in maintaining healthy heart and lowering the occurrence of irregular heartbeats, also known as arrythmias as well as myopathies which is the weakening of cardiac muscles.

Basa Fish Contamination

Despite the popularity of Basa, there have been some health risks associated with this fish. Recently, several food safety compliance organizations including the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and the US FDA (United States Food And Drug Administration) have highlighted the alarmingly high levels of mercury and drugs found in this fish. Mercury is known to possess carcinogenic properties and can cause liver damage.

The reason for this was traced back to the breeding conditions of Basa fish. Due to increased demand, Basa was being bred in ponds and contained areas. In order to prevent contamination, the fish breeders used chemicals and drugs to prevent parasites from infecting the fish, However, Basa being a hardy fish itself, absorbed both the nutrients and chemicals from the water, and ended up hosting innumerable toxins in its body. When these high toxin levels were detected by the FSSAI and the FDA, the breeding practices followed to raise the fish have come under scrutiny. There was a warning issued against importing the fish and people were discouraged from eating imported Basa.

Basa Fish Breeding Techniques:

The original farming practices to culture and propagate the growth of basa began in the Mekong river delta in Vietnam, as early as the 1940s. While some traditional breeding methods are still utilised today, several advanced aquaculture techniques have been adopted, in order to meet the elevated global demands of this freshwater fish variety.

The many traits of pangasius that make it very suitable for widespread production are its ability to survive in salt water habitats, adopting to high pH conditions, as well as tolerating temperatures up to 30 degrees celcius.

Moreover, possessing an additional respiratory organ when compared to other freshwater fish, it can survive in environments where there is limited availability of dissolved oxygen.

In addition, advanced scientific techniques of generation such as hormone-induced spawning, hybridization and expanding the regions of culturing to the global tropics have all resulted in remarkable improvement in the speed and quality of the Basa fish product.

The pangasius are nurtured in freshwater ponds as well as in cages in other streams, at a very high density. It develops completely to a weight of 1 kilogram during a rapid growth phase of merely between six and eight months.

To prepare the produce to meet export quality standards, the basa is packaged as skinless, boneless fillets. The colour of the flesh is usually pale yet pleasant hues of white, cream, rose or yellow depending upon what kind of feed, processing technique and surroundings they were harvested in.

Basa Fish Warnings And Risks:

It is advised to be aware of certain contraindications that may arise due to factors of contamination in Basa fish:

  • The ponds in which Basa fish are bred are prone to infections, thereby leading to the fish carrying these germs in them.
  • The fish farming practices often employ potent pesticides to get rid of the microbes in the water, in turn causing the fish to ingest high levels of these harsh chemicals.
  • Studies have reported that strains of Vibrio bacteria, the main reason for food poisoning, have been detected in Basa fish exported to other western nations.

Experts have said that these toxins are contained if the fish is cooked well, the demand for imported Basa has gone down, but its opened up a huge market for Indian Basa, which carries the same health benefits.

Basa Fish Health Benefits:

1. Promotes Weight Loss

Basa is a very good meal option for those on a strict diet and monitoring their daily calorie intake. With a serving of 100 grams containing merely 50 calories, it prevents excessive accumulation of fats and eventual bloating of adipose tissue. This is key for effectively reducing body fat around regions of the hips, thighs and stomach, as well as for regulating lipid metabolism.

2. Provides Superior Proteins

This fish supplies all the nine essential amino acids (high-quality protein) necessary for synthesizing vital proteins in the body. Essential amino acids namely histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine cannot be intrinsically manufactured by body cells and hence needs to be complemented for, in food intake. Basa is therefore central for obtaining the growth-promoting proteins, which also repair worn out body tissue.

3. Contributes To Longevity

When taken occasionally to avoid the risk of toxicity from the fish, Basa although being a lean seafood, compares to some oily fish which are generally high on Omega 3 fatty acids. These complexes can reduce inflammation in the body, caused due to conditions of stress and external environmental factors. They also protect the heart functions and aid in the development of healthy vision in children like glaucoma.

4. Low On Carbohydrates

Basa has negligible amounts of carbohydrates and is hence an ideal option for some highly specific diet plans. For instance, the ketogenic diet focuses on foods that are high on fat and lack carbs, thereby making basa a potential main feature in such meals. Yet another well-known regime, the Atkins, gradually phases out carb intake, and hence steamed basa fish meals can be made a part of this diet.

5. Improves Bone Health

The skin of the Basa is an abundant source of Vitamin D, which performs many functions in the body such as strengthening bones and maintaining normal blood levels of essential minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Adequate supply of Vitamin D in diet with a steamed Basa fillet, can ensure the prevention of weak bones in children, called rickets and bone loss and fragility in adults, termed as osteoporosis.

6. Supplies Vital Minerals

Eating thoroughly cooked or baked basa is one way of obtaining the trace minerals like zinc and potassium, necessary for important bodily functions. Potassium assists in regulating electrolyte balance in body cells, enabling supple muscle contractions and unobstructed transmission of nerve impulses across organs in the system. Zinc plays a vital role in boosting immunity, monitoring cell synthesis and growth and promoting wound healing in injured tissues.

7. Negligible Sodium Content

Consuming one basa fillet in a week adds a mere 50 milligrams of sodium to diet. This is very beneficial for those who are constantly experiencing high blood pressure, as it reduces their intake of salt significantly and normalizes the flow of blood in the body. Low sodium foods also help those suffering from liver ailments and kidney problems, as these foods help to limit the buildup of fluids in the body.

Basa Recipes

Basa fish melds well with mild flavourings of the spices which when cooked renders a unique taste and aroma. This fish can be grilled, pan-fried, steamed or baked to make amazing recipes. You can try making desi version of Basa fish curries or stir-fries and have them with steaming hot rice or roti and make your meal balanced and wholesome.

basa stir fry

Lemon Pepper Basa Stir Fry

Ingredients

500 g basa fish fillets cut into pieces

1 sprig curry leaves

1 tsp mustard seeds

4 -6 chopped garlic cloves

1 tsp finely chopped green chilli

1 tsp julienne ginger

1 tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp crushed peppercorns 

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp lemon juice

Salt to taste

2 tsp coconut oil

For Garnish

Chopped coriander and curry leaves

Method

In a pan add oil, mustard seeds and allow it crackle, add curry leaves, fennel seeds and sauté for a few seconds.

Then add chopped ginger, garlic, green chilies and sauté for 2 minutes. Now add Basa fish sprinkle turmeric, pepper powder, salt and cook for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat on each side till golden brown.

Finally drizzle lemon juice and garnish with curry leaves and coriander leaves.

Serve hot with a steaming rice or roti.

Nutrition

Basa fish is loaded with protein, healthy fats, omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA and low in sodium and cholesterol. The dense nutrient profile promotes heart health, builds muscle and boosts overall health. Lemon provides with ample amount of vitamin C, B6, iron, calcium and magnesium and other Indian spices added promote nutrition and digestion. Peppercorns aids in the absorption of other vital nutrients and boost metabolism.

basa fish curry

Indian Basa Fish curry

Ingredients

500 g basa fish fillets cut into 4cm pieces

10-15 finely chopped shallots 

1 tsp finely chopped ginger and garlic

1 tsp mustard seeds

¼ tsp fenugreek seeds

2-3 long red chillies deseeded,

1 tbsp fish curry powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

3-4 medium sized chopped tomato

1 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp oil

Few Sprig curry leaves

Salt to taste

For Garnish

¼ bunch fresh coriander leaves

Method

In a large pan add oil, mustard seeds and allow it to crackle, add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and red chilies sauté for 1minute, then add onion, ginger, garlic and cook until it is translucent.

Now add tomatoes cook for 3-4 minutes add all the masala powders, salt and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk and fish, cover with lid cook for 10 minutes in medium flame. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve the yummy fish curry with hot rice.

Nutrition

Basa fish, being super-rich in proteins and healthy fats, promotes heart health and boosts memory. Onion is packed with antioxidants, vitamins C and B6 and improves heart health and lowers the risk of cancer. Tomatoes, being abundant in lycopene enhance skin health and glow. Coconut milk has significant amounts of calories and monounsaturated fatty acids and boosts energy and burns fat.

Conclusion:

In general, the benefits of eating basa fish in moderation, ideally once a week, outweigh the risks. Always ensure complete cooking of Basa fish and avoid consuming if it is raw or undercooked.