Barramundi belong to the sea perch family.
They have a distinct pointed head, concave forehead, large jaw and rounded tail fin. They have a dorsal fin with seven or eight strong spines and a second dorsal fin of 10 or 11 rays. Freshwater barramundi are a greenish-blue on the upper body and have tail fins that are dark brown to black. Saltwater barramundi have a silvery body and yellow fins.
Distribution and Habitat
- Internationally, barramundi are known as Asian sea bass, giant perch or giant sea perch. They are distributed throughout coastal areas from the Persian Gulf to China and southern Japan, south to Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.
- In Western Australia, they’re found north from Exmouth Gulf, but are most abundant in the Kimberley.
- Barramundi can live in freshwater or saltwater. Habitats include streams, rivers, lakes, billabongs, estuaries and coastal waters.
Barramundi in Australia
Available both wild-caught and farmed, it is caught using gillnets in coastal and fresh waters in Australia’s tropical north, from the Ashburton River in WA to the Noosa River in Queensland. It lives in rivers, creeks, estuaries and coastal shallows, however all move into estuaries and coastal shallows to breed. NT, WA and Qld are important barramundi farming areas, though there are also farms in NSW and SA. Farms located further south than barramundi naturally occur use warm saline bore water to simulate the fish’s natural habitat and most farms use salt, rather than fresh, water. Barramundi is an Aboriginal word meaning “river fish with large scales”.
Size and Weight:
Barramundi mature as males after about 3 years, measuring up to 60cm in length, then change into females after about 5 years. They can reach up to 1.5m and 50kg, although most wild-caught fish weigh less than 6kg. Some farmed fish are sold at 400-600g (plate-sized), though increasingly many farms produce larger fish (around 2-5kg).
Barramundi In Cuisines
In Australia, such is the demand for the fish that a substantial amount of barramundi consumed here is actually imported. This has placed economic pressure on Australian producers, both the fishers and farmers, whose costs are greater due to remoteness of many of the farming and fishing sites, as well as stringent environmental and food safety standards placed on them by government. While country of origin labelling has given consumers greater certainty over the origins of their barramundi at the retail level, no requirement exists for the food service and restaurant trades to label the origins of their barramundi. See Australian cuisine.
Locally caught bhetki (barramundi) is a popular fish among Bengali people, mainly served in festivities like marriages and other important social events. It is cooked as bhetki machher paturi, bhetki machher kalia, or coated in suji (semolina) and pan fried. It is very popular among people who are usually sceptical about eating fish with a lot of bones. Bhetki fillets have no bones in them. In Bengali cuisine, therefore, fried bhetki fillets are popular and considered to be of good quality. The dish is commonly called “fish fry”. See Bengali cuisine.
Locally caught chonak (barramundi) is a favourite food, prepared with either recheado (a Goan red masala) or coated with rava (sooji, semolina) and pan fried. The fish is generally filleted on the diagonal. It is eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment to drinks or the main course. It is one of the more expensive fish available.
Barramundi from local fish farms are known as pla kapong (Thai: ปลากะพง) in Thailand. Since its introduction, it has become one of the most popular fish in Thai cuisine. It is often eaten steamed with lime and garlic, as well as deep-fried or stir-fried with lemongrass, among a variety of many other ways. Pla kapong can be seen in aquaria in many restaurants in Thailand, where sometimes this fish is wrongly labeled as “snapper” or “sea bass” on menus. Traditionally, Lutjanidae snappers were known as pla kapong before the introduction of barramundi in Thai aquaculture, but presently snapper is rarely served in restaurants in the main cities and in interior Thailand.
United States cuisine
In the US, barramundi is growing in popularity. Monterey Bay Aquarium has deemed US and Vietnam-raised barramundi as “Best Choice” under the Seafood Watch sustainability program.
- Large barramundi is usually sold as fillets.
- In fillets, look for lustrous, firm, moist white-pinkish flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh smell.
- Small barramundi is mostly sold whole, look for firm flesh, which springs back when touched and a pleasant fresh smell.
- Always ask your fishmonger for Aussie barra.
- Make sure whole fish is scaled, gutted and cleaned thoroughly.
- Wrap whole fish and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
- Refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze whole fish for up to 6 months, and fillets or cutlets for up to 3 months, below -18°C (- 0.4°F).
Yield is 45-50%. Barramundi flesh has medium-large flakes, mild flavour, low-medium oiliness depending on the season, moist flesh and soft-medium texture (smaller fish having softer flesh and smaller flakes). Larger fish have only a few large bones, which can easily be removed. Cut large fillets into serving size portions. The centre bone of cutlets can be removed and a filling placed in the cavity. Baby barramundi is best served whole (scaled, gutted and cleaned) as it is an ideal plate-sized fish. The fine skin can be left on during cooking. It is good barbecued or baked wrapped in paperbark or banana leaves to protect the delicate flesh.
Steam, deep-fry, pan-fry, bake, grill, barbecue.
Barramundi Goes well with:
Asian greens, chilli, fresh herbs, lemon, lime, soy sauce, white wine.
- Alternative fish to use in recipes: Blue-eye Trevalla, Lings, Gemfish, Mulloway, Threadfin.
Barramundi, aquacultured, fillet, raw
- Serving Size100g
- Amount per serving
- Energy523 kJ
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat5.3 g6.79%
- Saturated Fat1.2 g6%
- Trans Fat115.01 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat1.08 g
- Monounsaturated Fat1.43 g
- Cholesterol86 mg28.67%
- Sodium56 mg2.43%
- Total Carbohydrate0.0 g0%
- Dietary Fibre0.0 g0%
- Total Sugars0.0 g
- Added Sugars0.0 g0%
- Protein19.2 g38.4%