Pan Fried Swai Fish Dinner | Cooking at Home

Hey everybody! This is the first video in our new series, "Cooking at Home with Chef Jacob." Since we've covered so much ground with a lot of our other technique videos, I thought it'd be fun to do a series where I am limited by my small and poorly equipped home kitchen, not to mention, my local supermarket that pails in comparison to most that you'd find in many urban areas.

In this video, I make a super simple pan fried fish with one of my all time favorite vegetable sides, roasted squash with garlic and thyme. I also make a quick lemon-tomato beurre blanc of sorts to round out the completed dish. From start to finish (once all your prep is done), it takes about 10 minutes to cook and serve and costs under $10 for 2-4 completed entrees.

What is Swai?

According to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch List, Swai (pronounced s-why), is interchangeably used with the term Basa, which is a farmed form of river catfish imported from South East Asia. Swai is commonly available in most large supermarkets, but you can also use this recipe for catfish and bass (which are basically the same thing) or a thin, mild fish such as tillapia.

Since the above mentioned fish are thin and delicate, they are best sautéed or pan fried and cook relatively quickly. Dusting the fish fillets with a thin coating of flour and cooking them in a combination of fat and oil over medium heat, will help to brown the exterior while keeping the flesh moist and succulent.

Ingredients Used

For the Fish

  • 2 Large Swai Fillets (substitute basa, catfish or tillapia as desired).

  • 3-4 ounces of All-Purpose or Bread Flour, for dredging.

  • Kosher Salt to taste.

  • Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste.

  • 2-3 ounces Canola Oil (or other neutral flavored cooking oil)

  • 1-2 ounces of Whole, Unsalted Butter

  1. Generously salt both sides of fish fillets with kosher salt and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. The salt will draw out protein rich fluids that will then allow the flour to adhere to the flesh.

  2. In the meantime, heat a large, 12" skillet over medium, giving the pan ample time to heat all the way through.

  3. Dust both sides of fish fillets with flour and shake off any excess.

  4. Pour canola oil into preheated pan, enough so that the bottom is covered with a thin layer, and gently lay in fish fillets. Give the pan a gentle shake to ensure the fish doesn't stick.

  5. After about two minutes, place whole butter in the center of the pan, gently shaking the pan as the butter melts.

  6. Turn stove temperature to medium-high, and continue to cook fish on first side until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes total).

  7. Gently flip fish fillets over using a spatula and continue to cook on second side for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.

  8. Remove fish to plate and reserve pan for beurre blanc below.

For the Beurre Blanc

  • 2 Whole Tomatoes, Seeded and Diced

  • 2 Whole Lemons, Juiced

  • 4 ounces butter

  • 1-2 Teaspoons of Sugar

  1. Immediately after removing fish fillets, return pan to medium heat, adding in seeded and diced tomatoes. Saute for about 15 seconds.

  2. Add lemon juice and sugar, and reduce until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.

  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter until an emulsification is formed.

  4. Check for seasoning. If the beurre blanc is too sour, balance with an additional pinch of sugar. You may need to add a small pinch of salt as well for overall seasoning.

  5. Spoon over fish fillets and serve immediately.

For the Roasted Squash

  • 2 Zucchini, sliced into thin rounds

  • 2 Yellow Squash, sliced into thin rounds

  • 2-4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1/4 Bunch Fresh Thyme, Minced

  • 2-3 ounces Canola oil

  • 2-3 ounces Butter

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, and once hot, add canola oil.

  2. Place zucchini and squash into hot pan and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, or until some pieces start to slightly brown.

  3. Add whole butter and continue to sauté until the butter melts.

  4. Add minced garlic and thyme, and continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes, or until the squash has cooked down yielding a soft texture that still has some structure (read "not complete mush").

  5. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve immediately.

  6. Total cooking time is about 10 minutes, so if serving this with the above fish as presented in the video, you can easily cook this on a second burner at the same time you're cooking the fish.

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Joined: 12/27/2011
Stella Stars: 658

I decided to try this using fileted and pin-boned but not skinned Lake Michigan whitefish. I love whitefish, it is such a delicate fish but it tends to be bland. In fact I had some in the U.P. of Michigan yesterday and they deep fried it and it was so much like cardboard.


I didn't have any tomatoes so I reverted back to shallots, one lemon and some white wine and sugar. And yes my sauce broke. ;-)


I fried it meat side down first and flipped it to the skin side to finish. What a nice crust it made.


I have to say there Mr. Copperfield, this was the best whitefish I have had in 60 years of eating whitefish. Good job sir and thanks again!

Joined: 12/27/2011
Stella Stars: 658

I caught a few bluegills the other day and decided to use this technique on them.


In the past I would dust them in flour, dip them in egg wash, then dredge them in crushed saltines and then deep fry them. And make some quick tartar sauce (MW and sweet pickle relish) to dip them in.


This time I salted and dusted the meat side in flour, fried in a saute pan with a light oil. Made a sauce from the drippings, shallots, white wine, lemon juice, honey, then added some butter.


Oh was this good. Jacob, you are redefining how I cook fish and in an excellent way.


Thx again!

Jacob Burton
Jacob Burton's picture
Joined: 11/01/2010
Stella Stars: 17890

Awesome! Glad to hear it worked out for you.

Joined: 03/30/2014
Stella Stars: 10
Generously salted both sides of fish with Kosher salt--completely ruined the fish.  No one could eat it, it was so salty.  Will try something different next time.  Squash was good.
Jacob Burton
Jacob Burton's picture
Joined: 11/01/2010
Stella Stars: 17890
How much salt did you use?
Joined: 07/28/2014
Stella Stars: 10
Had to sign up just to say, "Yum!" Needed something new to do with swai, and I'm so glad I found this recipe! Thanks!!
Jacob Burton
Jacob Burton's picture
Joined: 11/01/2010
Stella Stars: 17890
Hi Hyoi,

Glad you liked the recipe. Welcome to Stella Culinary. :-)
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