A form of catfish known more commonly as a Wallago Attu, Jambal, Tapah or a Boal Fish. One particular variant is the Pa Khoun which grows up to 1.75 meters long. The Pa Khao, in contrast, grows up to 2 meters but more commonly is found in lengths from 60 cm to 1 meter.
This is the most widely consumed catfish of the Mekong.
Davidson cites local beliefs in Laos that it is considered by many to be unsuitable for women immediately after giving birth to a child. Gnu mak kheua is one of the dishes this fish is particularly good for. It's abundant after the floods of the rainy season.
You'll find many different legends attributed to it because you can find all sorts of animals inside its stomach, ranging from birds to large frogs.
Tall tales suggest it has eaten ducks, dogs and small children, especially near certain regions of Thailand. This has led some to think of it as a freshwater shark, but that's not an accurate description. Some believe this fish became so aggressive because of cultures laying their dead to rest in the water, and the fish began to see this as a regular source of food.
In Malaysia, one legend tells of a fisher who caught a Pa Khao and found gold in its stomach. He took the gold, sewed the fish back up and returned it to the water, but from that day forward his descendants were forbidden from eating the fish. If they even touch the fish, they will experience severe itching that won't be cured until they go to get medicine from Perak that is supposedly made from the remaining gold from the fish.
What are some of your memories and stories about the Pa Khao?