White Pomfret, Silver Pomfret, Pompano, Palmburo Fish – whats the difference?

By ParsiCuisine.com 8 comments
  • I have tasted the White Pomfret in India, great flavor and the taste of the ocean within. Wonderful in Curry or Fried with indian masala. Very difficult to find in USA.
  • Silver Pomfret is found in USA Asian Stores. It is a good substitute for the above White Pomfret.
  • Black Pomfret (Halva) is to be avoided, heard it causes diarrhea for some people.
  • Palmburo or Golden Pomfret is avcailable in some H-Mart Stores in USA. The fish is very fatty and tastes different from the White Pomfret. However curry and fried fillets come out good.


[Silver Pomfret; Pompano (Philippine); Butterfish; Pampus argenteus | similar: Chinese Silver Pomfret Pampus chinensis] – Used for famous parsi Patra ni Maachi

This tropical Indo-West Pacific fish is found near coasts from the Persian Gulf to Borneo, and as far north as mid Japan, but not as far south as Australia. It is not actually a pomfret but a butterfish. It can grow to 23 inches but the photo specimen, wild caught in India, was 10 inches and weighed 9-1/2 ounces, a typical market size here in Los Angeles. This is a major commercial catch within its range. IUCN rated “Not Evaluated”, White Pomfret is not considered threatened. It is, in fact, expected to have extended its range by 2050.

Pampus chinensis is very similar but the tail is generally not so deeply forked. It is smaller, has a smaller range and is a minor commercial catch.

“Pomfret” is one of the most sought after fish in India and Southeast Asia due to it’s delicate white flesh with subtle “non-fishy” flavor. The flesh breaks up easily on the plate but not along distinct flake lines. It holds together well enough to poach fillets (skin off) but that isn’t a usual way to prepare this fish. Fillets are too thin and tender for soup.

Steamed whole with a few diagonal slashes through the skin, this fish remains attractive and is quite manageable on the plate compared to many. The fin rays hold together fairly well and there are few ribs to deal with. It will also bake very nicely with the same diagonal slashes through the skin.

This fish is often deep fried whole, but must be handled carefully to avoid breaking up. A half pounder fits well in a wok with oil about 1-1/2 inch deep in the center or in a skillet with oil about 3/4 inch deep. Heat oil to 375°F and fry 5 minutes on one side, turn carefully and fry 3 minutes on the other side.

Buying:   This fish can often be found in Asian fish markets serving Philippine, Chinese and Southeast Asian communities. This is a premium fish, but the price has declined with rising supply and is now around 2016 US $3.99 / pound as whole, uncleaned fish in Philippine fish markets in Los Angeles.

Scales:   This fish may be covered with minute bright silver scales, but they rub off so easily there may be only patches. Fish marketed here in Los Angeles generally have only a small patch protected by the pectoral fins, if that.

Cleaning:   This would be easier with the head off, but this fish is often used head-on. Make an incision from the vent (almost directly below the root of the pectoral fins) forward to under the chin. There is a stiff keel, so you may need to cut just a tiny bit off center. This will give enough access to get a couple fingers in to scrape out the innards, which extend very high and a little aft of the vent. Scrape the gills loose at the bottom through the body cavity and pull them out through the gill slits with long nose pliers.

Fillet:   While this fish is most often used whole, it is not difficult to fillet, if that’s what you want, and yield is good. Remove the head and outline the fillet by cutting through the skin top, bottom and over the tail. Cut from top front to back, then over the tail and work forward. When you get to the rib cage, just pull the fillet off the ribs. Examine it carefully for remaining ribs and fin rays. There may be one or two centerline pin bones.

Yield:   A 10 inch 9-1/2 ounce fish yielded 6 ounces skin-on (63%) and 5-1/4 ounces (55%). Yield is quite good due to the very small head.

Skin:   Fillets are difficult to skin because the skin has very good adherence, and it is difficult to feel the divide between skin and flesh. Fortunately it would need to be removed only for poaching, which is not a usual use for this fish. The skin has a stronger taste than the flesh, but not annoyingly so. Skin shrink is definite, but fillets, lightly dusted with rice flour, can be pan fried skin-on. When the fillet is turned skin-side down, press it down with your turner. The skin will soon soften and the fillet will remain flat (though thicker than it started out). After cooking, particularly frying, the skin can easily be peeled off if desired, but there’s really no reason to do so.

Stock:   The heads, bones and fins, simmered slowly for 40 minutes, make a very usable mild stock, almost clear and with just a hint of color.

Recipe of Fried Pomfret (parsi style) from Seafoods Cookbook

Fried Fish
SIDE DISH: Fried Fish

[POMPANO family Carangidae (Jacks & Pompanos)]

These are deep bodied ocean fish of family Carangidae (Jacks and Pompanos). and are prized eating fish worldwide. The family is, however, a bit confusing because some pompanos are called Butterfish and Pomfret while some fish from those families are called “Pompano”.

This pompano is a medium flavor fish with flesh that holds together very well for all modes of cooking, and it’s shape fits pans and steamers better than most fish do. Frying, steaming, baking and poaching whole or as fillets all work well. The flesh is white except for a darker layer right under the skin, but that dark flesh does not have a strong flavor.


Buying:   This fish is found in all the Asian fish markets here in Southern California. It is heavily farmed and almost always available. Because it is very often cooked whole, that’s the way it is normally sold. Farmed Pompano is quite economical for a premium fish – I’ve purchased whole fish as low as $2.99/pound.

Scales:   Golden / Florida pompano has only an incomplete covering of tiny scales that scrape off as a slush without making a mess.

Cleaning:   The main problem for cleaning is the short length of the body cavity, but it’s sufficient to get your fingers into. The gills pull rather hard, so a strong pair of long nose pliers is a great help. There are also large stone-like lumps in the throat for crushing shells, and the pliers help here too. They are also good for reaching soft stuff that’s hard to get at with your fingers.

Filleting:   This is about as easy a fish to fillet as you’re going to find. The bone structure is complete and easy to follow with the knife and you can end up with a “see through” skeleton with almost no flesh on it. When you get to the rib cage, just cut the ribs from the backbone with kitchen shears. The ribs are thick and hard, and pull quite cleanly with long nose pliers. There is also a row of substantial centerline spines for the length of the body cavity – pull them straight forward.

Skin:   The skin is fairly tough and feels a little leathery, but has no strong or off flavor. Amazingly, it has no shrink when fried, or when cooked by other means. In fact, you can poach a skin-on fillet and, when it hits the hot court bouillon, it actually bends slightly away from the skin side. This makes Pompano ideal for steaming, baking or poaching whole. Once cooked, the skin is very tender.

If you wish a skinless fillet, the standard long knife and cutting board Method works fine, but takes a bit of muscle as the skin adheres strongly to the flesh. The only problem is the width of the fish. Cutting the fillets lengthwise down the centerline makes skinning easier. The skin is easily peeled from a cooked fish if you desire to do that. I see little point in removing the skin from this fish.

Yield:   A 1 pound 9 ounce fish yielded 14-1/4 oz of fillet skin-on (57%), 12-3/8 ounces skinless (50%) – a very good yield.

Stock:   The head, bones and fins make a very nice fairly light soup stock. There is a fair amount of oil, but this is easily removed using your gravy separator. The oil does not have a strong flavor.

Pomfret Drawing of Fish  –   [Family Bramidae]

Yes, there actually are real pomfret, but the fish called “Pomfret” in the market aren’t. They’re Butterfish and Pompano. Black Pomfret Taractes rubescens, Atlantic Pomfret Brama brama and Pacific Pomfret Brama japonica are real pomfrets but I have yet to find any in the markets.

Black Pomfret (Halva)
Black Pomfret[C. Parastromateus niger]

Actually not a Pomfret but a Pompano (the two families look a lot alike), this is an Indo-West Pacific fish ranging from the north coast of Australia to southern Japan and from Africa to Borneo. It can grow to 29 inches but the photo specimen was 10-1/2 inches and weighed just over 15 ounces, toward the large size seen in the markets. Black pomfret vary in darkness – the photo specimen is darker than many. Though highly commercial this is a fast breeding fish and not considered threatened. This is the fish we feature on our Broiling Fish page.

What Does Pompano Fish Taste Like? What About The Pompanos That Make Them Special?
The whole world is talking about the delicious, versatile and aromatic fish that many chefs cannot seem to get enough of in their kitchens. These are the mighty Pompanos of warm waters that people prefer to have on their plate.

If you are one of those people who is wondering what does Pompano Fish taste like? We have some valuable information for you in this article, read on!

Pompanos are abundant in the warm waters of gulf beaches. The fish voraciously feeds on tiny fishes, shrimps, molluscs and other small sea dwellers. Adult fish are said to migrate to bay areas during the mid-year. Florida reefs harbour the largest numbers of Pompanos.

How They Look
Pompanos are gorgeous sea beings and they can be spotted flashing their yellow hued bellies and silvery sides when they make a splash into the water. They have distinguishable silvery skin along with a thick stout body that measures up to 42 to 64 centimetres.

The Florida Syndromeanos became famous, you need to know that these fish were a rage back in the 60’s when a certain Mr.Groves began actively cultivating them in a pond. Thanks to the sweet taste of pompanos, many companies were ready to shell out big bucks in raising these beauties.

Though the delicious Pompano cultivation was a lucrative proposition, soon enough the corporates started to realise that Pompanos in their larva stage were not easy to feed as the feed was rather expensive.

Usually in their natural habitats, Pompano larvae survive on microscopic sea plants like algae. Typically Pompanos have smaller mouth and hence, it was difficult to find a cheap and affordable feed to raise them in ponds.

People who invested heavily in raising the Pompanos were forced to feed the shrimps to larvae as it was the only alternative and it was expensive.

Thus, the Florida Syndrome disappeared resulting in declined interest in Pompano cultivation and they were termed as the most expensive fish in the market.

Quick Facts

Before we divulge into the most interesting part of Pompanos, here are some quick facts about them:

Food experts around the world call Pompanos as the most edible fish in the world.
The white meat is easy to cook.
The fish can be used in any cuisine and hence, is versatile.
Has a lingering but mild aroma.
Interestingly, Pompanos are not required to be scaled.
Pompanos generally weigh up to 2 pounds.
More often than not people confuse other similar looking fish (that belong to the same family) to Pompanos, and hence, it is better to avoid fish weighing more than 3 Pounds if one is looking for Pompanos.
Do you know that Pompanos are preferred by Creole cooks as their first choice?
What Does Golden Pompano Fish Taste Like?
Tasting Pompanos is a delight to many people. They have great texture, taste, and flavour and can be incorporated in many cuisines with ease. Many chefs claim that Pompanos tastes better when they are baked or cooked using fewer spices.

For the sake of understanding the taste of a fish, we can examine the fish in various areas like, texture, appearance, ease of cooking, taste, flavour, nutrients and the colour of cooked meat.


Pompanos have thick white flesh with pearl-like translucency that is white in colour.

The silver side of the Pompanos are said to be delicious and easily edible as it does not require scaling. Though the fish is firm to touch, it can be easily filleted. Upon cooking the translucent flesh turns thick white.

Gourmands across the globe give much importance to the appearance of the cooked flesh just like its taste. And Pompanos score high in this category as they are nicely cooked with their silver skin and are firm to touch. They can be easily cut into shapes and dressed as per one’s wish and desire.

Gourmands recommend cutting the fish in such a way that the silver skin is shown to enhance the appearance of the dish.

Ease Of Cooking
Pompanos are cooked easily without consuming much time. Unlike many other fish, the whole of Pompano is edible as its bone is soft and tender which can be consumed. Most of the experts recommend broiling this fish with right amount of spices and herbs. However, one can use the fish in any type of recipe.

Pompanos are famous for their delectable and delicate taste. When it comes to taste, these fish have a mild tinge of sweetness complemented by its fine texture. Pompanos have a good repute of ‘a clean tasting fish’.

In fact, many chefs believe that it is this sweetness of Pompanos that make them versatile to be used in a wide variety of cuisines. The head of Pompanos are said to be oily in taste and are frequently used for broiling, sautéing and in soup preparations.

When it comes to flavour, this is fish is said to have the mild and sweet flavour that can gel well with any kind of herbs and spices.


It’s needless to say that fish is the most nutritious food of all the other things and Pompanos are no different. With their good fat content (9.5 g/whole fish) they are healthy to eat too. Here is the breakdown of the other nutrients in Pompanos:

A whole fish has

About 18.5 g of Protein.
0.6g of Omega 3 fatty acids.
50mg of cholesterol with 65mg of Sodium.
Popular Ways Of Cooking Pompanos

Pompano is no doubt an excellent tasting fish which is cooked with simple ingredients. One of the most preferred ways of cooking these fish is to broil them in lemon juice and butter which brings out the sweet taste in the fish.

Another popular way of cooking Pompanos is the En Papillote method wherein, the flesh of the fish is securely placed in a cooking dish or well secured plate with lids. Some people also use parchment paper to capsule the fish along with essential spices to cook.

Video for Patra ni Maachi by Rita.


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Jan 1, 2019, 6:39 pm



Jan 1, 2019, 5:28 pm

Anant – yes, I buy Pompano from H-Mart in Boston. It resembles Pomfret too. Goes by another name Palumboro fish.

Angappa Murali

Aug 8, 2022, 7:20 pm

is black ponfret taste the same as white pomfret. Also what is Golden Pompano. Do they all taste the same


Aug 8, 2022, 2:25 pm

Hi Murali,
Black pomfret may taste the same as the White Pomfret but thats where it ends. Here are the differences:
1. Black pomfret is cheaper than the White.
2. Black pomfret can give diarrea to people.
3. Black pomfret color is different.

Golden Pompano is available in USA and I buy it often. It is golden/yellow in color.
Tastes similar to White pomfret except more fatty taste and the skin is thicker.
Fish is larger than some White pomfrets.
Goes well in our Parsi cooking.

I have heard that Costco now sells Pompano in California!


Nov 11, 2022, 3:25 pm

Just a not on buying Pomfret. The one you list at 2.99/pound is not for Silver Pomfret but for Golden Pomfret. Both are found in Asian markets in California. The sliver Pomfret now costs well above $10/pound (depending on size) there are some places one can get them below ten dollars, but those are real tiny.
Further, Golden Pompano that’s taste is not even close to silver pomfret (I would suggest not buying the Golden Pompano).


Nov 11, 2022, 7:13 pm

Each to their own!

Eunice Lazarus

Jul 7, 2023, 12:34 pm

Does pompano/butterfish taste like sable fish?


Jul 7, 2023, 7:29 pm

Sablefish (also known regionally as Black Cod) is a mild, white flaky delicacy that is packed with the same levels of omega-3s as salmon.
Its velvety texture, perfect white flakiness, and sweet flavor make it a rich meal experience, as well as a healthy, sustainable fish choice.

Pompano is white and a bit more fatty.

Ask Rita