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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicago Chef's Asian Carp Solution: Call It "Shanghai Bass"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 7:45 AM

The White House is forking over $75 million dollars for electric barriers to keep invasive Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. An Illinois company plans to ship 30 million pounds (!) of the fish back to China, where it is considered something of a delicacy.

Meanwhile, Phillip Foss, a chef at the highfalutin Chicago restaurant Lockwood, has his own solution to the carp problem: re-branding.

Foss appeared on the morning show of a Chicago Fox affiliate and touted his kitchen's efforts at using the carp in fine dining dishes, including "Ceviche of Shanghai bass" and "Asian Carp-accio."

The biggest problem is that Asian carp are so bony that a 60-pound fish yields just 12 pounds of usable fillet. Gag-inducing video of the butchering process after the jump...

Phillip Foss vs the Asian carp from mike sula on Vimeo.

I wrote a feature story for the RFT in 2008 on the carp problem in local rivers and the fisherman who hunt the creatures with bows and arrows. I caught one of the fish and attempted to fillet and cook it my backyard. It did not go well.
The biggest problem with cleaning and eating Asian carp is that they are an extremely bony fish. Looking at one flayed open on a cutting board, tiny white bones permeate almost every inch of the meat.

Allen and Chapman have both come up with their own methods of cleaning the carp. They have posted step-by-step photo guides to salvaging as much boneless meat as possible on the Illinois Bowfishers' website.

Since Chapman scores the meat with a fillet knife, a tedious process, I elect to try Allen's method on my fish, a silver carp about two feet long. After discarding the guts (the carp smells twice as bad inside as it does out), I follow the instructions and start by cutting off the bottom and top thirds of the fish, leaving just the rib cage. After an exasperating, gag-inducing, half-hour long process, I'm left with eight thin strips of meat, each with a single thick rib bone in the center. Allen refers to these as "carp pork chops."

In the end, a relatively large carp is reduced to half a plate's worth of fish sticks. Breaded, fried and drizzled with lemon juice, silver carp tastes just like tilapia or any other cheap, white-fleshed river fish.
Looking back, it probably would've been easier (and tastier) to travel to Chicago. Then again, that fish reeked so horribly my stomach turns at the thought of eating it as a ceviche.

(Hat tip to Ian Froeb for the find via


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