Sunday, November 11, 2012

'Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish'

Farmed salmon is steamed in a clay pot with bok choy, and topped with fried, crispy onions at Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly. Brown rice is available.

Here is an eye-opening video about how basa fish are farm-raised in Vietnam:

'Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish' 

Judging from the comments, the video was made public about two years ago.

Why a two-year-old video is circulating now is unclear.

But K.T. Tran, chef-owner of Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, said she recalls a customer brought up a concern with basa fillets from Vietnam a year to a year and a half ago.

Since then, Tran said, she believes the United States has taken steps to ensure that frozen basa fillets sent here are from certified fish farms free of pollution.

Tran also said she is considering switching to U.S.-farmed catfish.   

On Saturday night, we had dinner at Simply Vietnamese, where I have enjoyed basa fillets a number of times.

Basa is a type of catfish that is also called swai or Pangasius.

On Saturday night and on a previous visit to Simply Vietnamese, I chose another seafood dish instead of having my usual basa fillets in a coconut curry sauce with bok choy and brown rice.

Food safety experts generally recommend buying seafood farmed in the United States, if you can't find wild-caught fish.

Simply Vietnamese doesn't serve any wild fish, so I ordered farmed Salmon in a Black Pepper Sauce on Saturday night as an alternative to basa.

The controversy over basa fish isn't going to keep me from enjoying one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the metropolitan area.

At Simply Vietnamese, two other alternatives to basa are shrimp in a coconut curry sauce, above, and greenshell mussles in a ginger-wasabi sauce, below.

A green papaya salad with mango, above, and pho with pork, below.

Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly;
201-568-7770. BYO, free street parking. Seafood entrees are $18.50 and $19.50.


  1. I will never forget the time I lunched at the famous Johnny's Po Boy in New Orleans in December 2002. As I enjoyed my sandwich, a delivery arrived and was hand-carted right past me. This was before I started toting a camera and documenting things- but I looked at those boxes as they rolled by, and that venerable "local" place was using farmed Vietnamese Basa for their "Catfish Po Boy". Ew.

  2. I've eaten in that place, but didn't have a po boy. I did have a catfish po boy elsewhere in New Orleans on that trip, and now you have me wondering.

  3. "Pan-broiled Basa fillet, a farmed catfish from Vietnam, served over bok choy with a bowl of brown rice ($19) ... The fillet was so big it was served in two pieces, and covered with carmelized onion and sweet pepper. This is a healthy, one-dish meal."

    There are other times you have recommended this so-called "healthy" fish.

    Question is, Mr. Sassoon, do you really know what you're eating?

  4. Not always. But there is no evidence that basa came from a polluted fish farm. And fish is far preferable to meat, poultry, butter, cream and deserts consumed by so many.

  5. That should be "desserts. Most people live in nutritional deserts.


Please try to stay on topic.