What is a Pomfret?

The sea bream is a member of the pomfret fish family.

Pomfret is an informal category of fish that contains over 30 known species that are members of the Bramidae family. All pomfrets can be identified by the flattened body and long dorsal fin that runs along the entire body of the fish. The different species of fish identified as pomfrets come from at least eight different genera. Some species are quite rare and even threatened with extinction. Other species of pomfret are quite widespread and are precious commercial fish species throughout Asia.

Pomfrets are included in the perciform category of fish. Perciformes are bony fish that have two nearly separate fins, including a dorsal fin near the head and an anal fin near the tail. The dorsal fins in perciformes are almost always much larger than the anal fins. Unlike other perciforms, the dorsal fin in a pomfret dwindles to become the anal fin without a clear division between the two. The upper tip of the dorsal fin of these fish usually extends far back towards the tail.

A fish only needs to have the correct shape and fin structure to be considered a pomfret, and these fish species can be found in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Most of these species are unrelated to each other and are considered pomfrets based on their shape alone. There are eight genera that have species of pomfret fish. Some examples include Brahma, Eumegistus, Pterycombus and Taractichthys. The genus Brama contains the largest number of pomfrets, including at least eight recognized species.

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In terms of commercial fishing, the Atlantic pomfret (Brama brama) is the most important species in this category of fish. Also known as angelfish and Black Sea bream, this fish is a popular menu item in China and other regions of South Asia. This fish spends most of its life cycle at a depth of 3,250 feet (about 1,000 meters), feeding on smaller fish and molluscs. Despite the common name, Black Sea gilthead can be found in various regions of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.

Pomfrets are usually prepared whole after the fish’s internal organs have been removed. Fish are considered tastiest when they are freshly cooked, fried or steamed. Pomfret fish such as Atlantic pomfret have been reported to have a savory flavor that lacks the strong odor and aftertaste that are associated with many species of saltwater fish.

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