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What Is a Panga?

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  • Written By: Kelly Andersson
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2014
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The term "panga" is the common name for the Pterogymnus laniarius, a small fish common in the southeast Atlantic Ocean and the southwest Indian Ocean. Often called Torpedo scads, the panga is also found throughout the western Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Australia. It travels in schools and feeds mostly on smaller fish. It is caught commercially in Indian waters, usually by hook and line or with beach seines or traps. Commercial catches are largest in Malaysia and Thailand, where panga is a popular food fish.

It's also a popular food item in France, where it's known for both its flavor and its affordability. Panga is usually sold fresh, but it is also available dried and salted in some countries. Known in Indonesia by a variety of names, including Besi hangat, Cencaru or Cincaru, and Kerongan, panga is a white-fleshed and flaky fish with a naturally sweet flavor.

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The panga is a silvery pink color with a white underbelly. Bluish green stripes run laterally on its side, similar to a rainbow trout, and its head is bluish. Its sides are silvery, and it has two distinct dorsal fins. The panga has a pointy lower jaw and a single row of small teeth, with a large black opercular spot near the top of the gill. Typically from 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) long and weighing from 6 to 8 pounds (3 to 4 kg), the longest reported panga was measured at 31 inches (about 80 cm).

In Spanish, the panga is called the Macarela torpedo; other English names include finny scad, hardtail scad, and finletted mackerel. In some countries, the name panga refers to species other than Pterogymnus laniarius. In Indonesia, panga may refer to the Megalaspis cordyla. In Kenya, panga refers to the Trichiurus lepturus, and in Spain, Poland, and the Netherlands, it may refer to the Pangasius hypophthalmus. Panga is the main ingredient in a classic Polish food dish in which the fish is baked and then served with grated and caramelized root vegetables.

An adult panga fish transitions through intermittent sex changes. It's thought that about 30 percent of the fish in the species are hermaphroditic, with both sex organs present. Panga reach sexual maturity relatively slowly, and it may take as long as 14 years for the panga's natural population to double.

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