Asian carp are cyprinids, a type of fish that originated in Asia.
The most common species are the grass carp, the black carp, and the bighead carp. These fishes were first imported into Japan from China around 1900.
Asian carp was a staple of Japan’s diet until the 1980s when overfishing and pollution took a toll on them. Since then, this fish has become rare in Japan. Yet, it is still eaten in many Asian countries.
The Asian car’s popularity is not surprising—the fish is delicious, filling, and nutritious.
Americans are known to have a wide variety of hot, spicy, nutritious dishes. So why don’t they eat Asian carp?
Let’s rephrase the question and provide a quick answer before we proceed. Check it out below.
Why don’t Americans eat Asian carp?
Americans don’t eat Asian carp because the government placed a ban on carp’s farming. The ban crippled the fish’s production, harvest, and finally, its consumption.
The problem with Asian carp is that they are originally a farmed fish. What this means is that you can control their population in closed environments such as farms.
Their population stays in control when you farm the fish near rivers or lakes to lay their eggs. After all, the purpose of farming these fishes is to ensure a constant supply for people to eat.
Asian carp are still a great fish to consume despite having a bad reputation in the U.S. There’s no denying that Americans might be missing out on an opportunity to increase their fish options!
If you’re eager to know more about Asian carp, including why Americans are turning a blind eye to the fish, keep reading.
Why Did The American Government Ban Asian Carp?
National Geographic explained that the Asian carp originated in Asia. And it was introduced in the U.S. as a fishing lure imported from China for bass and catfish.
Individual catfish farmers concentrated them into the water with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which altered their natural ecosystem.
Because of state restrictions prohibiting the shipment of disruptive species within one mile of any river or lake’s headwaters, American fish farms threw their unwanted carp into Lake Michigan.
The reason this happened is not truly rooted in any dislike for the taste of the fish. It’s more environmentally driven than anything else.
Due to the fear that invasive fish species will escape their native environment and damage natural rivers, the U.S. government barred its importation or exportation across state boundaries.
The American fish farmers attempted to retaliate by importing the Asian carp as a trash species for themselves. However, the United States government established an import restriction on all invasive species aboard a vessel, even if it was simply a ship filled with water.
The Asian carp are poised to overtake several of America’s most popular water bodies, including Lake Michigan, part of the Mississippi River, and Lake Erie. These are all shared by the American public and have already been affected by the invasive fish.
To combat the threat posed to the waterways, over 500 fishing boats with armed guards were deployed across five states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, for the sole purpose of attempting to capture and kill as many as possible.
Their assessment of it all found that about 30-40 percent of the carp captured in these waters were dead. To put that into perspective, that’s still around half of the 20 million carp estimated to be in Lake Michigan alone.
If Asian carp did get shipped in from Asia (and it seems more than likely they will), there is not much anyone can do about it.
Edible Asian Carp Species
Asian carp is similar to other oily fish such as salmon or mackerel.
They have a very mild taste, so you might not even notice the fish flavor once you start eating it.
They contain omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein content. Asian carps make great grilled sandwiches or steak bites.
Here are two major edible Asian Carps.
This species can be found in many Asian countries. However, not all of them eat it as part of their regular diet. In China, grass carp live in rivers and streams. They spend most of their time hiding on the bottom of the river or deep underwater, eating plants and other food sources floating by.
They are peaceful fish, rarely bothering humans or other animals. They are also not very fast and can be caught with their mouths wide open, making them easy to catch.
Bighead carp, on the other hand, were imported from the Black Sea area in the 1960s. They swim upstream during the springtime in search of freshwater ponds to lay their eggs in. Because of this, they are a real danger when it comes to fishing and conservation.
They have such a voracious appetite that they will consume any plant or animal matter available—including young salmon and mussels.
So far, there is no way to control the population of bighead carp except for killing them in a lake or river where they live. Asian carp, specifically bighead carp–live in most of China’s major rivers.
Bighead carp like to eat plankton that come from the river’s bottom, which explains why they like to swim upstream during the first few weeks of springtime every year. They lay their eggs in large lakes and ponds to not mix them with other species’ eggs.
According to Professor Liu Jianxing, Water Resource and Environmental Management at China Agricultural University, the only way to keep the bighead carp population in check is to harvest them as soon as their population has reached a certain number.
This process also ensures that there is no overfishing.
How To Prepare Asian Carp
You should know that Asian Carp is one of the most popular and nutritious meals in china. If you ever visit a posh restaurant in China, you might decide to place an order.
However, if you are a sucker for home-made meals, then here’s a step by step procedure to prepare Asian carp;
- Firstly, prepare the ingredients by slicing onions, garlic, and ginger root into very thin slices. Chop the green onion into 1-inch pieces; peel half an eggplant and slice it very thinly (with a mandoline).
- Next, you cut your soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water chestnuts into cubes. Prepare about 4 cups of flour for dredging.
- Place the fish in a mixing bowl and add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, green onion, and 2 tbsp of water; mix well. Cover and leave it overnight.
- Heat cooking oil (peanut) in a wok until hot. Add the prepared fish slices to it; fry quickly till cooked [about one minute]. Then go-ahead to remove it from the oil.
- The marinade should be left at the bottom of the wok. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add ginger root slices, onions, garlic into it; then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add the thick sauce into the wok (i.e., the marinade); mix well and cook over low heat for another 3 to 4 minutes.
- You can add 1 cup of water and boil until the sauce reduces. You can use the “O”-flavored bean curd for added flavor.
Your Asian carp is ready!
Some Interesting Facts To Know About Asian Carp
Asian carp are also known as the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteusaculeatus). They belong to the Family Gasterosteidae (sticklebacks), a group of ray-finned fishes in the order Perciformes (perch).
Today we recognize Asian carp as an invasive species and a threat to native species because of their foraging behavior and competition with other fish for habitat, food, and space.
As Asian carp lived in rivers and lakes during the last ice age, their scales developed armor plating to protect them against the harsh climate. Because of this, their scales became too heavy for them to swim in open water.
Because of their nature as invasive species, they continue to harm native fish and natural ecosystems. Their eggs and young tend to collect and grow communally.
This feature allows for higher recruitment of young carp when many adult carp are present. Fewer adult fish are required for reproduction when there is an abundance of the young. And this can contribute to further dominance of the Asian carp population.
Generally, the biggest issue with so-called “invasive” species is taking away resources from other fish. When the population gets too high, they can also start eating each other! The most effective way to control their population is to kill them all off.
This action would be much harder and costlier than it is for bass and trout. Their population stays in control when the fish are farmed near rivers or lakes to lay their eggs.
You may want to justify the ban placed on the Asian carp species by the U.S. government. However, the idea of missing out on one of the most nutritious seafood meals is a sorry one.
The truth remains that the Asian carp is highly productive and popular. Because of its popularity, it has become relatively cheap. Every fish farmer knows this.
Americans have so many similar dishes to the Asian carp. So, it’s safe to say that the Asian carp would hardly be missed, or not?
The Asian carp dish would likely experience a surge in the U.S. once the ban is lifted. The fish has everything to be a success in the United States.