Cheryl’s World: Catfish v. Swai

Truth in advertising. It’s simple. I don’t mind paying for what I get, but you need to give me what I pay for.

There are more and more restaurants that are passing off a popular fish, Swai, as catfish.

That’s a no-no for a number of reasons.

First, it is unethical.

What’s the big deal? Well, if it weren’t a deal, then why are business owners not informing consumers that they are serving something other than what appears on the menu?  Would you not like to be informed if you order chopped beef but the server brings out chopped horse?

Some have started referring to Swai as catfish because it is similar.   

Trust me, it is not the same.

Nearly 90% of the catfish (Swai) imported to the U.S. comes from Vietnam, where the use of antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. is widespread, according to consumer reports. Furthermore, the two varieties of Vietnamese catfish sold in the U.S., Swai and Basa, aren’t technically considered catfish by the federal government and therefore aren’t held to the same inspection rules that other imported catfish are.

Well, try telling this to the restaurants that have sold Swai, passing it off as catfish.

On the occasion when I have been served Swai, I have immediately let my server know that the fish before me was not catfish.  

I’ve been served Swai at seafood, Chinese and neighborhood restaurants. Some of my favorite catfish joints, that actually have “catfish” in their name, do not serve catfish anymore because they can hoodwink customers with Swai.

Heck, put some hot sauce, ketchup, mustard or tartar sauce on it and who can tell the difference?

I can and more and more frequently others are recognizing and sharing their displeasure.

To date, there’s never been an issue when I whisper my concern. Actually, they quietly try to resolve and address my concerns without bringing attention to our interactions.

Swai is native to Southeast Asia—Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia—and sells locally for around $3.99 a pound, according to Tod Marks of Consumer Reports.

You’re going to pay as little as $1 to up to $4 a pound more for catfish.

Clearly, Swai is cheaper. So wouldn’t you think that the savings should be passed on to consumers?

Instead, you have business owners who have no issue with violating truth in advertising policies, in addition to being deceptive.

I was pleased to see that Rocking Crab, where they have some of the best crabs and special sauce in the Metroplex, has a sign that makes the distinction between the two?

That’s right, you know you are getting Swai and not catfish!

Deception is not an admirable trait.

Imagine my surprise when I was told by a Joe’s Crab Shack manager that they cook their crabs along with their pork sausage.  

I asked the manager what do they do when serving Jewish customers. To say they cared would be a gross overstatement. His response was, to me, disrespectful.  

It was also unconscionable as I thought about people of the Jewish and Islamic faith who haven’t a clue about Joe’s Crab Shack’s disgusting practice. 

While I won’t begrudge anyone else the pleasure of eating at Joe’s; now that I know what they do in the kitchen, I won’t be eating there anymore, and I want to make sure I share what I know and consider to be bad business.

With dietary, religious and health restrictions, you have to be careful today.  

When my brother and I told my mother that we would no longer eat pork, she supported our declaration. She did tell us, however, that we had better not forget how we were raised and that if we went to anyone’s home, we were never to question what they put into their pots. Instead of asking if there was pork in those collard greens, we needed to say “no thanks,” and pass.

Since we were so adamant about keeping pork out of our bodies, she altered our menus to accommodate us.  She went to serving beef and smoked turkey, although she never stopped eating her ham hocks, center-cut pork chops and neckbones.

And we honored her edict. If we even thought something was seasoned with pork, we politely passed. 

Then I was hit hard when sitting at the table of someone I was dating and his mom was clearly outdone because all I had on my plate was potato salad, yams, macaroni and cheese and turkey.

She called me out, pointing that her son “didn’t eat pork, but he eats chitterlings!”

I politely responded, “Then he eats pork!”

And no, I can’t eat the Jiffy cornbread because it is made with lard!

I felt so uncomfortable, and I told myself that day that I refuse to be put in situations where people attempt to make me feel bad because I don’t eat or do things the way they do.

Just like my mom would have considered it rude for me to ask about pork, I think it is rude for people to mock others or trivialize their feelings by saying something like, “it won’t hurt you. Just eat a little bit.”  Or worse, “Just pick it out.”

Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen pork eaters attempt to deceive non-pork eaters.

Honesty is the best policy, and respect is an admirable trait.

I think it is important that in all you do, you do the right thing. I don’t care who you are!