Today, I tried Basa, a fish I have never had before. To give it a taste test, I cooked it in one of my favurite ways to prepare fish fillets; to wit, by simply pan-frying and finishing with a light sauce of butter and lemon juice. Parsley or scallion can be added but, today, I am using some capers for a little sparkle of added piquancy. It is a very simple method and suitable for even very delicate fish such as the Basa…
I bought two fillets and put one into the freezer for another time. The flesh, as you can see, has a slightly pinkish-tinge and, on-line, I have seen pictures of fillets that are quite reddish-pink indeed. I had rather thought Basa were sea fish (vaguely imagining it to be some sort of Sea Bass), but it in fact it is a river fish related to the catfish that is native to Vietnam and Thailand. After trimming the fillet, I tasted a chunk of it raw and the flesh definitely has that slightly earthy (even muddy) flavour you often freshwater fish. Happily for me, though, once cooked, this quality had entirely disappeared leaving a lovely delicate sweetness.
Before pan-frying, I like to dust fish fillets with just a little bit of flour to help make a slight crust. Only a very little flour is needed and, after dusting, you should let the fillet sit for about twenty minutes or so until the flour is mostly absorbed.
All of the cooking in this recipe should be done over a moderate, rather than a high heat. Start with a good glug of oil in your pan and then lightly fry your fillet on both sides until lightly golden on the outside and just barely done at the center (the flesh should still feel a little ‘springy’ when pressed). When done, remove the fillet to a warmed platter.
Drain off the excess oil from the pan, put it back on the heat and deglaze with a generous splash of white wine, being sure to scrape up and dissolve the tasty fond from the bottom.
Now you can add your butter, lemon juice and capers. For this recipe, I used about a third of a stick of butter and the juice from a half a small lemon. Cook just until the butter is melted and everything incorporated into a nice sauce. Don’t let the butter foam and thus cook too much… serving fish in browned butter, of Beurre Noisette, is a classic, but here, the browning should just come from the de-glazing juices, which add a nice richness to the final product. If necessary, you can add the fillet back in to the pan for a last warming but otherwise, just plate it and pour the sauce over just before service.