Get ready for a Southern staple with these fried catfish sandwiches! This is an easy recipe and will only take you about 20 minutes from start to finish. Just mix your batter, dredge, and fry! Catfish offers up unique flavor in every bite, and there’s a reason it’s so popular. Another beautiful part of this recipe is how cheap it is, catfish is abundant and offers great value for the price. What are you waiting for? Try a classic fried catfish sandwich today!
If you’re from the South, or even visited, then you’re probably familiar with the classic fried catfish sandwich. It’s a culinary icon, and has deep roots in Soul food. Catfish are incredibly abundant in the American south, and unfortunately so was slavery. Catfish was already valued by many in West Africa, and as many enslaved people were transported to America, the familiarity of the catch carried over. Many enslaved people would fish for food when time allowed, so fried catfish was quickly up there in terms of food choices. Combine these facts with the simplicity and speed of frying it allowed many enslaved cooks to serve large crowds at once, and it was quick for catfish fish fries to become the heart of the gathering traditions in Black communities in America.
Fried Catfish would carry on as the heart of many Black social spaces as time went on, becoming central parts of the annual celebrations of Emancipation and 4th of July after the civil war. Eventually, punitive taxes for these celebrations were announced, with newspapers writing to describe who would be paying for them. Outside of Black community spaces, fried catfish were slow to catch on. When catfish was eaten by white people, its association with Black Americans carried many stereotypes which made it less popular. It wasn’t just racial prejudice that slowed fried catfish’s growth, but the catfish’s image itself. Many considered catfish to have a “muddy” flavor, and being a bottom-feeder brought on different negative connotations. Catfish was even forbidden for consumption by the Nation of Islam, and Seventh-Day Adventists because of their bottom feeding status.
Around the 2nd half of the 20th century, catfish would boom in popularity. Catfish farming replaced cotton farming in many areas, and this led to farmers changing the flavor of fish to make it blander, and more “palatable’. Because of these changes, it became more marketable, and popular outside of Black communities. Like so many Southern dishes, it’s important to contextualize fried catfish’s roots in slavery, and black communities. These historical ties have shaped the way we view food, and community.