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Connoisseurs Line Up To Try Asian Carp At Taste Of Chicago

Asian Carp caught from the Illinois River on Sept. 22, 2011. (Credit: Bob Roberts, WBBM)

Asian Carp caught from the Illinois River on Sept. 22, 2011. (Credit: Bob Roberts, WBBM)

John Cody. John Cody
John Cody is a veteran reporter for Newsradio 780.
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CHICAGO (CBS) — A long line of adventurous connoisseurs gathered at Captain Dirk’s free fish giveaway at the Taste of Chicago Thursday, to take a bite of the invasive and infamous Asian carp.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Dirk Fucik, the proprietor of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop at 2070 N. Clybourn Ave., worked over a 500-degree grill to change the reputation of Asian carp from scary to yummy.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

“They’re thinking of a bottom-feeding carp that’s a little stronger, et cetera. These are actually surface feeders that eat on plankton, so they’re very mild and light,” Fucik said. “The fish is similar to tilapia.”

Customer Caroline Stevens said the Asian carp was OK, with the right spices.

“It’s pretty good, and I hate fish,” she said. “But you know, this kind of tastes like chicken.”

Fucik teamed up with the Department of Natural Resources and Illinois American Water to turn out 750 Asian carp sliders, as their contribution to the beginning of the Taste of Chicago.

The free lunch was accompanied by a side of information on the efforts the state is making to eradicate Asian carp and protect the Great Lakes from the destructive fish.

The idea of eating Asian carp as a means of keeping the fish from advancing is not new. It became a fad back in 2010 when chef Phillip Foss, formerly of the Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer House Hilton, began serving up the fish in ceviche form, under the name “Shanghai bass.”

Last year, a group of downstate businesses began developing a plan to turn the fish into food for people, and convert what’s left over to fish oil and pet food, using the slogan, “If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.”

Asian carp pose a significant threat to the ecology of the Great Lakes, to the point where several states have called for an order to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

So far, federal courts have rejected the lawsuits, and the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the cases.