Do not eat vietnamese river cobbler!

UPDATE: to my surprise, this first ever post that I published on this blog is the most popular one. Not the recipes, but this. I guess people like scandal 🙂 For this reason, I will keep this post, even though it seem to upset some people, since it has generated a good traffic. However, before you, dear reader, feel strongly enough to comment, please consider, that this blog post was written in June 2008. That is almost a decade ago.

A couple of days ago I went shopping to my local Tesco and saw this new fish they are selling: River Cobbler. It looked like cod or haddock, but the price was nowhere near as high. I though, ok it is cheap and new so I’ll try it.

Yesterday, I’ve covered it with white vine and while it was steaming, decided to have a look what sort of fish this is. Good thing that I am curious and do care about what I put in my mouth. I’ve discovered this website. After reading about river cobbler (also called, Pangasius, Vietnamese River Cobbler, Basa Fish and White Catfish, Tra, Gray Sole. see website) habitat and some readers’ comments, the contents of my pan went straight to the bin.

Frankly, I don’t care how they import this fish and what corporations this business supports. The important thing that said it all for me, is that it is a scavenger fish from one of the most poisonous rivers in the world – Mekong River. Many people wrote that they did indeed had an adverse reaction, so I figured – why risk it? Plus, I’ve bought a diesel (or gasoline) contaminated cod from Tesco once, so I wasn’t surprised that they sell rubbish like that.

Of course there are many fish farmed in horrible conditions. I always try to buy organic fish and do look at the location it came from. For this reason, I personally will not eat river cobbler and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.

82 comments to Do not eat vietnamese river cobbler!

  • allan logan


  • Husband had river cobbler last night – been sick as a dog ! Only seen some of these comments when googling it – Won’t be having this again unless we need to lose weight !

  • Mike

    Cannot believe these stories. We have river cobbler once a week and thoroughly enjoy it. Would
    Tesco sell it if it was as bad as implied?

  • Well my Husband and I were very sick last week with river cobbler – reported to head office and now being investigated – definately will never knowingly chance eating that again ????

  • Beth

    Found big lump of plastic in seafood canape. Told to return it to shop 20 miles away which I did. No reply to e-mail. No apology. Really not interested. On telephone and in person the staff behaved as if they had heard it so many times they were bored. Really scary.

  • mark lee

    Well ive just bought a couple of River Cobbler fillets,, I wanted Mackeral,, to do my special dish that I do,,, but Morrisons or Tesco have got none,, so Tesco had these river cobbler,, so ive got them cookin now with a couple of Octopus,,,,So im going to risk it and serve it up for me and my girlfriend soon,, with fried Wood Blewits, and a Mustard n Cream Sauce….

  • wendy

    my husband and I had river cobbler from tescos last night I fancied some fish and I got this for 1.49 and I thought what the heck i’ll try it. I followed Jamie olivers recipe and I must say I will be buying this more often as it is more affordable than my usual salmon which I very much love. I guess the people who have fallen ill shouldn’t blame it on the cobbler. it depends on what you have had in the day and some times a minor reaction to some sort of food does not mean it is bad for human consumption. when I first moved to England because of my husbands job I had diarrhoea for 3 weeks but since living here for 5 years I’m great now and I have not had any reaction to food since. the only time I had and still do have a reaction to is pizza so I simply stopped but I cant say dominoes or pizza hut sell rubbish pizza because some people like it. I like trying new food and from different cultures even if I get a reaction. keep an open mind people…

  • Raf

    There is growing online concern that River Cobbler from Vietnam can carry a parasite, a form of liver fluke. If it gets into the Human body it can attack the liver and cause cholangiocarcinoma which is a deadly cancer. If the infected fish is consumed raw, as in sushi, or because it is poorly cooked then this parasite could still be active.

  • Ours was properly cooked through. Unfortunately Tesco havn’t taken my complaint seriously. They just sent the standard letter with £10 gift card. They said they can’t follow up complaint as don’t have a sample of the fish to test – I said would be difficult as it was in our stomachs and then down the toilet !
    Handed in the packet and receipt at local store as requested. They said they hadn’t had other complaints which is not true but not much more I can say other than won’t be eating river cobbler, basa , pangisus or whatever it’s called ever again ! Can only try to warn others – not everybody’s got a cast iron stomach.There are warnings on several different forums going back as far as 2007 but Tesco still selling it ????

  • David

    We have been having river cobler for at least 2 years and have never had any problems we think its fab

  • Jonjo bought this fish from a lot of customers I bought it because it looked ok fresh and white .my wife cooked it in the bag ,bad idea .the smell was horrible.i could not bear to put it in my mouth ,straight in the bin.will ask the fishmonger at Morrisons for his opinion he is very knowledgable.i have read up on this fish now myself and will definetly not buy any more .it still turns my stomach when I think about the smell .save your money or by sea bass fillets they are beautiful.

  • Gil Grant

    I would rather eat something from a toilet bowl than the Mekong river, obviously not much thought given by those who eat this stuff.

  • Joe C

    River cobbler is a catfish strain but is light and flaky and good to eat without doubt. Catfish farms in the US where store bought catfish comes from are truly the villains here! They are both nasty and dirty. River cobbler is raised on an actual river with fresh water. If it was as bad as they say, England certainly wouldn’t use it as a cod fish replacement. IT IS GREAT DEEP FRIED like your fish & chips.

  • Linda Greenwood

    I use this fish to make Thai fishcakes with great success as it was recommended by a Thai chef.this seems to be the best use for this fish.

  • Ginger

    I just cant believe the stupid ignorant comments made on this web page about river cobbler or Basa as it is also known, oh dear, my husband and I were sick, or the river is so dirty, or it feeds of the bottom, where do you people think fish feed from, they all feed of the rubbish thrown in the river or sea, dead bodies, effluent, other fish, worms, slugs, and every other sorts of crap thrown in the water or dies there. What do you stupid people think, that they have down there, big MAC, KFC, or maybe a couple of Michelin restaurants to go to for the night “IDIOTS”

  • Jim

    You can thank the good old US of A for the pollution in the Mekong Delta. Some are too young or niave to realise how many thousands of tons of Agent Orange were deployed. Eat nothing from Vietnam.

  • Jim

    Too young or niave to realise how many thousands of tons of Agent Orange were deployed in the Mekong Delta area. It’s a there thanks to the good old US of A. Eat nothing from Vietnam.

  • ginger

    For gods sake get a life, there is tons of pollution and millions of dead body’s in our seas and rivers from two world wars and now migrants, all getting eaten by fish, what do you suggest, we all stop eating fish “silly man”

  • Jim

    Suggest you Google Agent? Orange.

  • ginger

    Suggest you Google common sense, Nobody cares like or not, get a life

  • The main common sense that I see here is don’t buy anything from Tesco. Their attitude to sustainability, suppliers and fair trade is far worse than what it should be. If you do complain, mostly you don’t get any satisfaction. Plenty of other supermarkets out there. Aldi/Lidl can be surprisingly good for basic foods if you are on a budget – with one exception and that is fresh fruit and veg which are poor. Find a market near you or farm shop or find a good old fashioned greengrocers.

  • Lisa

    I agree with Ginger about the state of seas and rivers and what fish eat. The only thing that kills them is humans and yes Ginger you should stop eating fish, maybe they could “get a life” then!

  • ginger

    Oh dear here we go again, another bleeding heart, shall we all stop eating beef, lamb, pork, chickens, turkey, and all other animals humans have been eating since time began, what do you suggest we eat, grass, or some nice new saplings, sorry but I don’t want to go back to my primate days thanks, if all the crap, rubbish, and dead bodes where taken out the waters, there wouldn’t be any fish to eat, because they would have nothing to eat in the first place “for gods sake put it back in the box”,

  • Go Ginger…. I think your comments are sound! I like trying different foods etc & I have never had a reaction to River Cobbler, Zebra, Ostrich etc etc. & as in one of your comments about foods eaten earlier in the day, an allergic reaction is usually within 15 min, however food poisoning or the likes can be up to 72 hrs later so therefore might have been something from nearly 3 days earlier that caused it? I have kept tropical fish & also as you say, if one died the others would eat it, also Mackerel, Crabs etc eat all the crap that is in the water & are bottom feeders & scavengers. they both still taste great to me 🙂 Some of these peoples comments are trying to manipulate others away from trying these things & will only feel better in themselves if they get a positive reaction so as to maintain/justify their existence as they have nothing better to do, In other words they are like Parasites, living & feeding on negativity!

  • Ginger

    At last someone with a brain cell, good on you Steve, and like you say many foods can upset your gut, “and your underpants”, but I will still keep eating cobbler and trying ,different foods, what is the point of living if everything that’s happened in the world frightens the crap out of you, don’t eat cobbler my arise, its a wonder some idiot hasn’t said, don’t eat anything from Japan there food must be contaminated, “cos the Yanks nuked them twice”, “idiot’s” So to all you doomsday Muppet’s, eat, drink, and be happy, because life is very short, “death is for eternity”

  • John Hallam

    What do the good people from Vietnam eat if their fish is bad for them?

  • Ginger

    Dead yanks I guess, there’s plenty of them there.

  • Achiinto

    This whole article is funny. As if UK people are very sensitive to food. Plenty of people across Asia eat basa fishes for many decades. This fish is not thing new.

    Plenty of fishes have parasite too, even many popular sushi fishes have them and when being served raw, people get very sick. This happens in Japan all the time.

    I don’t think Basa fish is that much of a bottom feeder too, as I kept a few similar species in aquariums before.

  • Lorraine

    I am sorry but I just had to reply to this article ….. Can I point out that all and I mean ALL wild fish are scavengers feeding on the natural foods in their habitat!!! The catfish on this Mekong river will be farmed towards the beginning of the river at the source not towards the head of it where all the pollution is!!!!

  • John M Birkett

    I first ate this fish about 10 yrs ago. I either fried it or poached it, and it was delicious. It was sold as frozen fillets of Creme Dory (in Kuwait). I assumed it was a sea fish both on account of its name and it’s taste. When I discovered it was actually a fresh water fish I was very surprised as most fresh water fish tend to be a bit bland to me. I ate it very regularly for 9 yrs while working in Kuwait and NEVER had as much as a twinge. It is a very tasty and moist fish and I only wish it was commonly available in Cape Town.

  • B Mallett

    The Point is that this fish is farmed in sewerage. Tesco know this and keep changing the name.
    If you cannot afford a good sourced product then Tesco will provide many cheap alternatives but do not endanger your heath for a cheap profit for Tecso

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