They’re aggressive, their appetites are insatiable, and they could take over the Great Lakes. Silver and bighead Asian carp threaten to destroy the annual $7 billion fishing industry in the freshwater ecosystem, and officials are quickly employing efforts to stymie the assault. One method that could prove effective is marketing the invasive species and showing that it can, in fact, be a tasty dish.
“Everyone agrees the word carp has a negative connotation to diners in the U.S.,” John Rogner, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, an agency charged with keeping the fish from taking over Lake Michigan, said in an article from the latest issue of Audubon. “I think they’re great smoked, and I’ve had them fried. I think the fish will sell itself once it’s given the chance.”
A number of ethnic groups already know how to transform the gilled menaces, which are now being called silverfin on menus, into mouth-watering dinners. “The Vietnamese community cooks carp in coconut milk with lemon grass and chili peppers. The Polish like to draw out the fishy odor by soaking it in milk and onions,” the Chicago Tribunereported.
Apparently the meat tastes like “a cross between scallops and crabmeat,” according to seafood chef Philippe Parola. His recipes include silver fin fried strips, silver fin almondine, silver fin with fresh berries, and silver fin cakes. Kentucky State University researchers also have a few ideas to share (watch the video below).
One of my favorite recipes is for carp tacos, which I saw on the Bowfishing Association of Illinois website:
Before shredding the fish, remove mud vein, or reddish-brown section of meat. Cook the shredded fish in the oil until its color changes. Add the taco seasoning and water. Cook until nearly dry, stirring occasionally. Heat flour tortillas in a dry fry-pan, turning to lightly brown on both sides. They should still be soft and pliable when warm. Fill each tortilla with fish mixture. Add grated cheese, taco sauce, lettuce, tomato chunks (or salsa) and top with sour cream.
If you have any great carp concoctions, Big River Magazine, a Winona, Wisconsin-based publication, is currently hosting its second annual contest for the best recipes that feature the fish. (The editors received no entries last year, sadly.) Alternatively or concurrently you can share them here for our hungry and environmentally conscious readers.