02 Jun Can you eat carp? You won’t believe the answer!
An Italian friend of mine, Nick, went back to Italy a while ago to visit family.
His family lives in the south and they celebrated one night by going to one of the best restaurants in the area.
Nick loves pasta but the waiter recommended the chef’s new specialty ” pesce del cielo” – the latest fish sensation !
Nick decided to order it and so did the rest of the family.
At the end of the night Nick and his family had enjoyed a great evening but the one thing that stood out most was the pesce del cielo.
Nick’s dad was so impressed he insisted on meeting the chef and complimenting him on the food.
The chef spoke to Nick’s dad and after some persuading finally told him what type of fish was used in the heavenly dish….it was Carp.
Everyone was astounded….after all, everyone knows that Carp tastes like soap mixed with mud!
When Nick came back to Australia he invited me over for dinner. The main course was fish and he’d been telling me how good this meal was….he just never told me what type of fish he was using.
I must admit the fish I had that night was good. It was soft fleshed, small pieces in a nice tomato sauce.
Nick had fished the Murray river 2 weeks previously and I just assumed the fish was Murray cod.
I was wrong!
Nick didn’t tell me we ate carp that night…but he ‘kinda let me believe it was cod.
About a week later Nick spilled his guts (confessed not vomited) and told me it was carp. I was shocked…not that I’d eaten carp but that I it didn’t taste like soap and mud…it actually tasted good!
So that was it. I’d tasted the dreaded carp and lived!
Now I had to work out how to prepare it so I could eat it again…not because I wanted to spend the rest of my life eating carp but so that I could, maybe, convince others it was worth eating and turn it into a resource rather than a PEST!
Yep, this was a big challenge…but hell, it involved fishing so it couldn’t be bad!
I knew carp has been used as a source of food in Asia and Europe for generations so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprise it can be made “edible”.
Nick gave me some info on cooking carp but couldn’t explain why it sometimes tastes like mud…and sometimes doesn’t. Also, I thought he might have disguised the taste a bit with the strong tomato and garlic sauce he used…I wanted to know if you could get it to taste like “real fish” with very few additives.
I started my research and I found some pretty interesting stuff…some good, and some total crap!
There are many carp recipes around. Some add so much stuff to the flesh that you couldn’t tell if it was fish or not…they are trying to disguise the taste. I wasn’t interested in them.
I wanted to know how to prepare the fish, just like the Italian chef had, so it actually tastes good.
I also read that different types of carp feed on different things and this effects their taste. Any type that is a bottom feeder, sifting through the mud….tastes like mud.
This was wrong!
So what causes the muddy taste?
The most reliable research says….Stress!
It seems that if carp are caught and put straight into ice- the muddy taste is avoided.
If they’re not put into an ice slurry (water and ice) the stress causes the rotten taste to spread through their body.
One person who should know this more than others is Keith Bell. Keith ran a business catching, processing and selling Australian carp across the world and has a simple approach and recipe for cooking carp to make “a pleasant, subtle tasting dish”. The secret to eating carp.
More and more information was pointing in the same direction – you can make carp edible….even enjoyable!!
A friend introduced me to an old Chinese guy, Chou, who explained how he prepares local caught carp.
According to Chou, on any carp there is red and white flesh. What you want is the WHITE flesh ….this tastes good.
What you don’t want is the RED flesh…this tastes bad!
Chou doesn’t put the fish in ice after being caught. He just takes fillets of white flesh from over the rib cage and leaves the other red stuff behind.
Only thing is – there’s a bit of waste on a carp, due to plenty of red meat, but big carp still give a good feed…
…and the white flesh is good enough to eat with just a bit of flour, oil, salt and pepper in a fry pan…just the way Aussies like to eat their fish!
So I had to try this…and I was surprised. It tasted pretty good. The only challenge was the number of small bones.
I even smoked some and this was really good.
But what do you do with the waste red flesh?
Here’s some suggestions –
- Salt water fish bait.
- Chopped up small for berley…works well in salt water.
- Yabbie bait.
- Cat food…depends how much you like your cat!
- Chopped up small for chickens…don’t know if this gives the chicken a muddy flavour?
- Fertilizer…a flower “guru” told me it makes roses grow…
…and I’m sure there’s a heap more!
So give carp a go.
Wouldn’t it be great if carp eventually became a target fish just like redfin, another introduced fish, has become?
It just might reduce the numbers in our water ways.