Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Invasive Asian carp being served up as gourmet dishes, or as 'fish hot dogs'

(Photo by Jere Downs, The Courier-Journal)
A growing number of fine-dining restaurants in Kentucky are serving up locally-sourced invasive Asian carp as trendy dishes, while some grocery stores are now stocking hot dogs made from fish, Jere Downs reports for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. "Humans are the only predators capable of making a dent" in the exploding population of carp, "a fish so fertile it lays one million eggs a year, a starvation threat to native fish like bluegill, crappie, bass and shad in 45 of 50 states."

So, what better way to reduce the species than to eat it. Louisville chef Shawn Ward told Downs, "Anything you can do with a fish that you spend quite a bit of money on, you can do with carp. Our biggest venture is to get people willing to try and eat carp.” Asian carp, which weigh between 45 to 70 pounds, are much cheaper than more expensive fish like bass, often costing $10 per pound, compared to $23 per pound for bass, said Louisville chef Dean Corbett.

The trend isn't exclusive to Kentucky, because carp have invaded most of the Mississippi River watershed and are threatening the Great Lakes, so one strategy is to harvest and eat them. The owners of processing plant Fin Gourmet in far Western Kentucky say they are "shipping 20,000 pounds of boneless filets each week to restaurants in Louisville, Chicago, Nashville, New Orleans and Las Vegas," Downs writes. Fin CEO Lan Chi Luu told Downs, "A shift is happening in the conversation. This is the new U.S. wild-caught fish."

But Asian carp isn't just for foodies. "While top chefs in Kentucky are starting to plate up Asian carp for gourmet diners, Asian carp hot dogs might be one of the first products to land the invasive fish inside supermarket carts," Downs writes in a separate story. Ward said he has created teriyaki and jalapeno-and-cheese flavor "fish hot dogs" that are now being sold in stores. He told Downs, "It tastes like a grilled hot dog. It’s not as strong. It’s good."

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