Two whole Mystus Catfish [Cá Chot (Vietnam); Mystus mysticetus   |   of family Mystus multiradiatus - Family Bagridae (Bagrid catfishes)]

Native to the Mekong (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam) and Chao Phraya (Thailand) river basins of Southeast Asia, these fish can grow to a shade over 5 inches long. They often form schools of both species, but M. mysticetus can be told apart because you can see it's eyes from the underside, and M. multiradiatus has a rounder anal fin. Fishbase has no common names for these fish, so we're calling them by the name on the package we bought. These are a well known fish in Vietnam, where they are harvested when the rice paddies start to dry and they heads for the river.

More on Catfish.

This fish is quite popular in Vietnam, and is used in sour fish soups and braised in a chili lemongrass sauce. It can also be dusted with rice flour, fried and eaten with a dip. It should be prepared as described below for any method of cooking.

Buying:   These fish are sold both "head-off" and "head-on". The instructions below are for "head-on". These fish can often be found in the freezer cases of some of the large Asian markets here in Los Angeles, neatly arranged in foam trays. The photo specimens, wild caught in Vietnam, were purchased at 2016 US $1.69 for a tray of 57 fish, weighing 12 ounces after thawing. The larger of the two fish in the photo was 4-1/8 inches long and weighed 0.33 ounce. Average weight for the whole package was 0.21 ounce (6 grams) per fish.

Caution:   These fish have three strong, needle sharp spines you should carefully avoid - one each on their pectoral fins, and one at the leading edge of the dorsal fin.

Scales:   They're catfish so they don't have scales, and are not kosher.

Cleaning:   This is a little tedious, but not difficult. It is fastest to do each step on all the fish before going on to the next step.

  1. Thaw the fish. A cold water thaw will work fine.
  2. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut off the head at the back of the hard part. This will be a little in front of the sharp dorsal fin spine. Cut diagonally, taking off the pectoral fins and their sharp spines.
  3. Using the shears, cut off the dorsal fin, cutting deep enough so take a tiny bit of the flesh with the fin. This gets rid of the third sharp spine. It is most accurate to cut from the aft end of the fin forward.
  4. Using the shears, cut from the front diagonally just enough to cut off the pelvic fins at the bottom of the fish. This will open up the belly for cleaning.
  5. Cut off the tail if desired. It can be left on if you will be serving the fish just dusted with rice flour and fried, but for soups and stews, cut it off.
  6. Scrape out the innards and rinse out under running water. The belly will be wide open so it takes only a moment to scrape everything out with a fingernail.

Yield:   12 ounces of thawed fish yielded 6-1/2 ounces (54%) cleaned as described above. This is with the backbone left in.


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