Catfish Satay

This mild but flavorful dish originally was made with swordfish. It struck me one day how much swordfish was being sold in this one small city alone. Seemed obvious that the world was gonna run out of swordfish so we stopped using that ingredient, and eventually stopped using tuna, monkfish, shark, marlin — all endangered game fish, in fact. That’s over fifteen years ago. As far as we know, Five Spice is the first to have done this.

We know there are separate problems with farm-raised fish, but it seems the better of the possible solutions. Besides, we like catfish.

– Jerry

Catfish Satay

Print Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Five Spice
Servings: 4


  • 1½ to 2 pounds catfish (sliced 1" x 2½")
  • 16 dried mushrooms (half dollar sized)
  • cup lemon juice (or lime juice)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Tablespoons fish sauce
  • pepper (ground, black or white)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon kelp (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic (rounded)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons basil (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons scallion (green part, minced)
  • 2 to 3 onions (red – peeled and sliced so the ends hold together in tangerine segment shaped cut slices)
  • 1 red pepper (sweet – large, cut in 1¼" squares; green is OK if you prefer)


  • Marinate catfish in juice, oil, fish sauce, pepper, salt, kelp, sugar, garlic, sugar, cumin, basil, scallions.
  • Soak mushrooms in boiling water 15 or 20 minutes till soft. Squeeze dry, trim off stems, (freeze in bag for stock). Add to catfish.
  • Parboil onions, pepper. Strain out the vegetables, chill, and add to catfish-mushrooms.
  • Soak wooden skewers in cold water for an hour, so they don’t burnon the grill. (You may freeze some for later use.)
  • Skewer one mushroom (half, if large) on skewer. Take a slice of catfish and form a tight S shape onto the skewer, then add an onion, another slice catfish, a red pepper, another slice catfish, ending with another mushroom. Do this with all the ingredients—you should have approximately 8, maybe more, skewers. Put in small glass baking dish, pour any extra liquid over skewered fish.
  • Heat grill and cook, carefully turning often, till done—fish should be moist inside.
    OR: Grill under hot broiler, turning as above.
  • This may be served with steamed rice, Thai sweet rice, rice pilaf or al dente orzo, the last two sautéed with onions, garlic, basil.

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