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Pomfret is an informal category of fish containing over 30 known species that are members of the Bramidae family. All pomfrets can be identified by their flat bodies and the long dorsal fin that trails along the entire body of the fish. The different species of fish that are identified as pomfrets come from at least eight different genera. Some species are fairly rare and even threatened with extinction. Other pomfret species are fairly widespread and are treasured species of commercial fish throughout Asia.
Pomfrets are included in the perciform category of fishes. 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 on perciformes are nearly always much larger than the anal fins. Unlike other perciformes, the dorsal fin on a pomfret tapers off to become the anal fin without a clear division between the two. The upper tip of the dorsal fin on these fish often stretches far back towards its tail.
A fish only needs to have the correct shape and fin structure to be considered a pomfret, and such species of fish can be found throughout the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Most of these species are unrelated to one another and are considered pomfrets solely based on their shape. There are eight genera that have pomfret species of fish. A few examples include Brama, Eumegistus, Pterycombus, and Taractichthys. The Brama genus contains the largest number of pomfrets, including at least eight recognized species.
In terms of commercial fishing, the Atlantic pomfret (Brama brama) is the most important species of this category of fish. Also known as angel fish and Black Sea bream, this fish is a popular menu item in China and other regions of southern 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 mollusks. Despite its common name, the Black Sea bream can be found in various regions of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.
Pomfrets are typically prepared whole after the inner organs of the fish have been removed. The fish are considered to taste best when they are cooked fresh by being either fried or steamed. Pomfret fish like the Atlantic pomfret have been reported as having a savory flavor that does not have the strong odor and aftertaste that is associated with many species of saltwater fish.