Have you heard of basa? It is a freshwater fish, a type of catfish and its Latin name is Pangasius bocurti. It was on sale at my local fishmonger recently and although they admitted it was farmed, they said it was raised with best practices according to their supplier. The fish is native to Southeast Asia and farmed in large numbers in pens around the Mekong River system in Vietnam, as well as China and Cambodia. There is some controversy between various seafood watch organizations as to the sustainability and environmental impact of farming it. The Seafood Importers Association of Australasia is a strong advocate, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program does not recommend it, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s montereybayaquarium.org website rates it as a “good alternative” to catfish but with some caveats.
Basa is described as having large, white fillets with no bones, and flesh that is moist with a light, firm texture and a mild fish flavor. This makes basa a versatile species that can be used in a multitude of recipes and cooking styles.
I had great aspirations and was inspired to cook it according to the recipe posted for Goan Fish Curry by Caroline’s Cooking. But then it was 6 pm and I couldn’t find the coriander seeds and didn’t have a fresh tomato (it being the dead of winter and pouring rain outside). I quickly lost my ambition. The curry will have to wait, maybe this weekend. But, plain pan fried fish sounded very boring. What to do? Searching for inspiration I stumbled upon one of my old blog posts for Magic Green Sauce, written almost a year ago. Magic Green Sauce elevates almost any “plain” food straight up to heavenly. Try it on grilled chicken breasts or tofu, you will not be disappointed.
I made a few alterations to the basic recipe, using what items were on hand. Here is the recipe so you don’t need to look it up:
Magic Green Sauce (makes about 2 cups)
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup packed mixed parsley and cilantro, I added a few sprigs of mint (basil or Thai basil would have been lovely but I did not have any on hand)
- I small piece (about an inch) of lemon grass (strictly optional but found in the back of the crisper drawer and love its aroma)
- 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- Juice of 1-2 limes (I like 2)
- 1/2 cup water (I used coconut water)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup shelled cashews (original recipe uses pistachios)
- Pulse all the ingredients except the nuts in the bowl of your food processor until smooth and well incorporated.
- Add the pistachios or other nuts and blend until mostly smooth.
- Serve as a dip, a spread, or sauce. You may thin with additional water or oil if needed. I like mine the consistency of a thick mayonnaise.
This will keep for a week and is better if allowed to mellow for a few hours before using, if you have the time.
I prepared the fish simply, processing a couple of handfuls of cashews till the size of panko crumbs, lightly coating the fish in the nuts to have a crunchy outside. Then quickly sautéing the filets in coconut oil on medium high heat. It took only a few minutes. You could also use a coating of flour or panko break crumbs instead of the nuts. I wanted this to be gluten free.
The original recipe for Magic Green Sauce came from the blog A Pinch of Yum, one of my favorites.
Try this sauce with a tray of roasted vegetables as well.