Crunchy breaded swai is both a fun and comforting food. Swai is a type of catfish that offers a mild, sweet flavor and its flaky flesh contrasts well with a crisp crust. Frying is the most effective way to develop the optimal golden color and significant crunch. The cooking process is relatively straightforward, so the swai will fry in a matter of minutes. Cook it in batches, but don't crowd them in the pan. If you will be cooking a lot at once, keep the finished filets in your oven, turned to its lowest setting, as you make subsequent batches.
Soak the swai in buttermilk in a nonreactive dish for at least 10 minutes or up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. Stir in additional flavoring agents, if desired, such as salt and pepper, a favorite hot sauce, a splash of vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powder and/or chili pepper powder.
Prepare a breading for the fish filets in a shallow bowl. Combine ingredients such as all-purpose flour, cornmeal, corn flour, panko or other breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and dried herbs and spices.
Pour about 2 inches of peanut oil or another cooking oil with a high enough smoke point for deep-frying into a large heavy-bottomed skillet and heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the oil temperature with a deep-fry thermometer.
Dredge the swai filets in the breading and gently brush off the excess. Lay them carefully in the oil, two at a time. Fry them for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the breading develops a deep golden-brown color and the flesh of the fish is opaque all the way through.
Transfer the cooked swai to a plate lined with a few paper towels, supporting them underneath with a wide-slotted spatula. Let them sit for a few minutes so the paper towels absorb excess oil.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Fresh and Frozen Seafood -- Selecting and Serving it Safely
- ConsumerReports.org: What the Heck Is Swai?
- Southern Living: Taste of the South -- Fried Catfish
- My Recipes: Southern Living's Classic Fried Catfish
- My Recipes: Southern Living's Spicy "Fried" Catfish with Lemon Cream
- Atlanta Magazine: Todd Richards’s Spicy Fried Catfish with Tails
- As an alternative to soaking the swai in buttermilk to get the breading to stick, submerge the fish in beaten egg.
- To cut back on calories, make "oven-fried" breaded swai. Rather than pan-fry it in a lot of oil, bake it in the top one-third of the oven at 375 F for about 25 minutes, or just until the breading is golden brown and the swai's flesh is opaque all the way through.
- Thaw frozen swai by storing it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
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