Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Lao Fish of the Day] Pa Sa Thong

Also known as the freshwater garfish or needlefish, Xenentodon cancila, this is a small fish that doesn't come in at more than 28 cm with a range from India to Indonesia. Good sized filets can come from it.

Pa Sa Thong is the only kind of gar found in freshwater. It is only distantly related to gars from North America and South America.

In Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos, (Prospect, 2003) Alan Davidson notes that the Lao name refers to a piece of banana stem "which, suitably decorated is placed in front of a Lao house during the annual celebrations of the Buddha's birth. I have heard it said that the beak of the garfish is thought to resemble this. But Mr. One Sy points out that this same piece of banana stem is used to float candles down the river, and that the garfish is a surface swimmer; so there is a further point to the name."

Davidson also notes that in southern Laos and Thailand, it is known as Pa Katung.

The Pa Sa Thong is also popular as an aquarium fish. In Europe it has been kept in aquariums since 1910 and first bred in captivity in 1963. It tends to have a nervous behavior and a preference for live foods, so some consider it difficult to keep in an aquarium.

While this fish is clearly capable of biting, some ichthyologists say the Pa Sa Thong is not likely to really be capable of leaping out of the water with enough force to kill a human.

What are some of your favorite memories and stories about the Pa Sa Thong?

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