Easy Fish Recipe for Crispy Skin Sauteed Basa Swai or Tilapia Fillets

We made some large Swai fillets and were disappointed at the lack of crispiness achieved before the fillets were done. Although the fish itself was done perfectly, the exterior flour coating barely stayed on the fish. After experimenting with some ideas, these few tips seemed to best help in making a crispy sautéed fish fillet.

Sauteed Swai Fish Recipe


2 Swai Fillets
4 tablespoons flour
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil


  1. eHow suggested pressing down with a knife and dragging it across the surface to lift and scrape away moisture after an initial drying with paper towels.
  2. Dust the fillets with the flour and wipe of any excess.  This is not a battered fried fish so were just trying to keep a light coating.  If the flour is clumping, your fish is still too wet and needs to be patted dry with a towel and re-floured.
  3. Like we do with steaks, salt and pepper the fillets when you first remove them from the fridge and as they come down to room temperature, the moisture will be drawn out ahead of their placement on the pan. Then repeat the knife scraping again before placing in the pan.
  4. Use as little oil as you can, but enough to maintain good fish to pan contact.  Oil is a conductor and will enable even browning of the fillet.  Harold McGee has pointed out that ‘as little as a half-teaspoon of oil will coat a medium sauté pan.’ Since we are using flour, a little more oil is needed to compensate for what will be absorbed into the flour to crisp the fillet.
  5. When you remove the piece of fish make sure you rest it skin side up or else the juices will flow down and make the skin soggy.’

When you buy the fillets, I like the tail cuts.  Many will say to avoid these because the fillet will cook unevenly, but I like to get the extra crispy tail end along with flaky thicker portion.

What is Swai anyway? Swai (Pangasius hypophthalmus) is a fish with delicate texture and white flesh.  It takes about 4-5 minutes to cook them to an internal temperature of 145º. Another fish called Basa is interchangeable for Swai and you will usually find more Asian style Basa recipes.  Ok, so what is Tilapia? Tilapia is the common name for over a hundred species of freshwater fish belonging to the family Cichlidae. Cook this to an internal temperature of 155º.  Its lower in calories but higher in cholesterol than Swai.

6 Responses to “Easy Fish Recipe for Crispy Skin Sauteed Basa Swai or Tilapia Fillets”

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