Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=189436
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Courtesy of Dirk Fucik

"Asian carp is a bony fish, but has a good taste, said Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago.


Will Asian carp invade our diets?

by Jen Lazuta
Sep 27, 2011


Asian carp cakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 Asian carp steaks
  • 4 ounces of melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 oz. bread crumble
  • Seasoning and hot sauce to taste

 

Instructions:

  • Poach or steam Asian carp steaks until fully cooked
  • Break it up in pieces to remove bones
  • Place all the meat into a mixing bowl
  • Add butter, mustard, egg and lemon juice
  • Mix well
  • Add bread crumble and season to taste
  • Make small cakes, rolled into egg wash and seasoned flour
  • Fry for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown
  • Serve with a beurre blanc or lemon butter

Makes 4 servings

Source: Chef Philippe Parola

 


“Asian carp has a terrible reputation,” said Philippe Parola, New Orleans chef and international culinary expert who is working with local and state governments to create commercial demand for the invasive species, “but it’s actually very appealing to the taste buds."


Parola said he has been eating Asian carp for more than two years now and describes it as a clean, delicate fish with a beautiful color.

“It’s much better than tilapia,” Parola said, “and way better than all the dirty, imported fish out there.”

Duane Chapman, a research fish biologist at the Environmental Research Center in Columbia, Mo., said he too is a big fan of Asian carp and that he and his family eat it regularly.

“The [Asian carp] filets are as good as anything you can find in the water,” Chapman said. “We usually put some rub on it and stick it on the grill and eat it that way. Sometimes we make ceviche, or we’ll fry it up for company. You can make fajitas with the carp or smoke it; add it to curry or soup; or just steam it. It’s delicious.”

Chapman said Asian carp is also much more nutritious than most people think.

According to Jennifer McGuire, a registered dietician at the National Fisheries Institute in McLean, Va., 3 ounces of Asian carp contains 138 calories, 19 grams of protein, 383 milligrams of omega-3, and less than 1 gram of saturated fat, values comparable to, and often better than, that of similar species.

Additionally, Chapman said, based on samples that were pulled from local waters, Asian carp has some of the lowest mercury levels of any fish and zero traces of PCBs.

Most other fish feed higher on the food chain, he explained, and therefore have a greater chance of ingesting contaminants. But carp feed only on plankton.

The main problem though, said Parola, is that people don’t realize how tasty Asian carp are.

He believes that "rebranding" Asian carp would go a long way toward changing people’s perception of the fish. Much in the same way dolphin fish was renamed to the more appetizing mahi-mahi, Parola has started referring to Asian carp as Silverfin.

Chapman agreed, saying the main problem is getting people to want to eat a fish that is associated with being an invasive, nuisance species.

Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago, said he believes the perception of Asian carp lies in the individual.

“What’s a weed? What’s a flower?” Fucik said. “Everyone sees it differently.”

People in Europe, said Fucik, love carp. “They are in heaven when they come here and realize how much we have.”

Despite its abundance though, Asian carp is almost impossible to find in the Chicago area. It’s easy to catch, but Fucik doesn’t normally stock it because there is no demand.

In Illinois, efforts are now underway to market the Asian carp. The Department of Natural Resources recently began promoting the consumption of the fish as part of its Target Hunger Now campaign, which plans to distribute millions of pounds of Asian carp to Illinois’ neediest citizens.

Parola said he is optimistic about the marketing of Asian carp.

“Demand is out there, and if someone had a little financing to promote the fish, it would gain popularity,” he said.

This would not only reduce the Asian carp population, but create jobs, and give people a new, nutritious source of food.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Parola said.