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Cermele: Fried Carp, Anyone?

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April 09, 2009

Cermele: Fried Carp, Anyone?

By Joe Cermele

The other night, I caught an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" on the Food Network that very much intrigued me. Guy Fieri, the host, pays a visit to Joe Tess Place in Omaha, Nebraska. This joint started out as a local tavern back in the 1930s, but gained serious notoriety for their fish sandwiches that were made from carp.

To this day, most of Joe Tess's customers flood in for their "famous fish" platter (that's how it reads on their menu), which is served on a slice of rye bread with coleslaw and fries. You can order fish ribs or tails, and the live carp are pulled from a tank somewhere in the back. I've been trying to find a show clip, but it seems one doesn't exist.

Perhaps I'm not well schooled in popular food fish from around the country, but this was the first time I ever heard of a restaurant serving carp, let alone having the carp be the main attraction. The folks interviewed during the show were totally digging it. Many were regulars. But when Guy Fieri tasted a piece in the kitchen, his usual over-the-top reaction was nowhere to be found. "That's a good piece of fish" was basically all he said. So what say you? Have you eaten deep-fried carp? Would you? Perhaps I'm missing out on something here.

JC

Comments (32)

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No carp for me. I tried it once as a kid and swore it'll never happen again.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Yea I've eaten it many times. If done right it's good, but done poorly and you'll need paramedics to get those needle like bones out of your throat. I much prefer buffalo to carp. Most restaurants along the river feature buffalo sandwiches as a quick and good noon time meal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from streack wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I would try it if it was made in a restaurant, because it has to pass FDA inspection first. As for trying them out of the local river, there is no chance, after seeing the types of trash in that river it makes me glad we have a well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 5 years 1 week ago

As long as someone knows how to get around the bones, its not bad. Not that good, but not bad.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 5 years 1 week ago

well, I'd try anything once...

Sounds pretty horrible though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Forgot to mention that the reason they cut those slits in the meat is so the hot oil gets in there and melts the bones...so they say

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Have been to Joe Tess's place.
Less than impressed, but plenty of food for low price.
Don't know why a food show would go there to do a show, as it's basically just a fast food place, with nothing else to recommend it.
Carp can be good if properly prepared, lots of small bones though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

streack

FYI, there are no FDA inspections on domestic seafood, shellfish, and fish; ergo so many food poisonings.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NY Survivor wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I would be willing to give them a try, especially since I do sometimes fish for them. It reminds me of when I moved from Tennessee to New York. I used to fish for and eat catfish. Here in New York they want nothing to do with a catfish. However I know a lot of people that fish for and eat Bullhead. They don't seem to realize that a Bullhead is a type of catfish. Go figure.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Pan-sized bullheads are good eatin'.
Once over that size they get mushy, just like catfish.
Both carp and catfish are fun catching, but they were where I first learned catch and release.
By the way, as I recall from the menu at Joe Tess's, seems like they served more catfish than carp.
Anybody here have fond recollections of eating pan fried smelt, like I do? Once again, the smaller, the better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Fried smelt! Mmm, mmm, delicious! Annual treat during the winter/early spring run. One of our local towns even has a Smelt Derby.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 5 years 1 week ago

The process Joe is talking about is scoring. It works for both buffalo and carp. When you fillet a carp or buffalo, only remove the scales; leaving the skin on. Place the fillet on scoring board with the skin down. Cutting perpendicular to the fillet; make cuts every eighth to quarter inch thru the entire fillet. When you are slicing the fillet, the skin is pushed inbetween the scoring board slots. the skin then holds the meat together. the tiny bones get disolved when deep fried or at worst they are simply swallowed without getting stuck in your throat.

You can buy scoring boards but we always made ours homemade. Take a wide board, at least 10 inches wide by at least 3/4 inch think. Cut grooves every 1/8 inch long ways. this creates ridges and valleys in the board. lay your fillet on the board, skin down. The fillet should run parrellel to the ridges and valleys on the board.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I squirm at the phrase, "If prepared correctly." Heck, fugu (blowfish) are okay, if prepared correctly ... will kill you otherwise. And, yes, I've had fugu. Only tried it because I had already sampled too much sake.

I try carp periodically - just like I venture into White Castle every year or so to see if my tastes have changed. The last time I tried carp was in a very nice French restaurant. Figured if anyone can prepare it correctly, it's the French. Well, they can't. It's better deep-fried to a greasy crisp.

So, in my book, carp are strictly catch and release. But, perhaps, like sliders, they become immensely palatable after a few beers. It's been a couple years since I've sampled carp. Maybe it's time to challenge my taste buds again.

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from wallofsam wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I'll stick to bullhead and Budweiser.Although last month, in TN, I went to a chinese restaurant and ate sushi, clamari, escargo, and raw oysters. So I guess never say never.

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from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 1 week ago

The carp is, as Izaak Walton reminds us, the queen of fish--and worth thinking about.

Don't ask if the carp is good enough for you to eat. Ask instead if you're good enough to eat carp"--as Vern Hacker says somebody once said ["Eating Carp," [Carp in North America (Bethesda, Maryland: American Fisheries Society, 1987), p. 49].

Let them eat carp ...

http://www.theinsidedope.blogspot.com/2006/03/let-them-eat-carp_26.html

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I'd try it again, but my first try was not good.

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from alabamahunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I love the show and the host is pretty cool, but I don't know that I would be wild about trying carp. Why eat carp when catfish are just as plentiful and cheap? Not to mention easier to prepare and milder.

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from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp doesn't have a whole lot of taste or flavor on it's own, so the preparation is everything. Same as with many things, snails (escargot), calamari (squid) etc.
Same as with salmon, there is the darker meat and the lighter meat, get rid of the dark part. The white part is mild.
Pickled carp is good, if barely worth the effort.
STILL, way better than another upper midwest staple....lutefisk! If you are ever tempted to try that...run.
To MLH, last fancy French restaurant I was in had smelt on the menu as an appetizer, so I had to order it and was really looking forward to it. It was awful.
Just as with sardines, the smaller the smelt the better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 1 week ago

John L - Lutefisk! Now that's a menacing way to kill an appetite. Okay, carp's not that bad after all ... even the dark meat.

Actually, the best sardine (pilchard) I ever had was pan-sized - salted and flame grilled until the skin was black. Mouthwatering. Have to agree with you on the smelt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Far Rider wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I've never eaten carp, but I've had yellow suckers and hog suckers many times, both of which are very bony. To get rid of the bones, we score them like MLH said and the grease dissolves the bones. Deep fried suckers fresh from the river are great eating.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 5 years 1 week ago

As a rule of thumb I don't eat carp. Love to bowshoot them and bury them under the wifes rose bushes but eat them- nope. Trout,salmon,perch,bluegill,catfish. Those are on my menu!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from snowninja wrote 5 years 1 week ago

A good friend of mine once told me the proper way to cook and eat carp. It is as follows: Clean and filet the fish as normal, then place on an oak board placed on the campfire. When the wood starts to charcoal, it's done. Then just throw the fish away and eat the board.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dwaynez wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I have eaten carp before, but it was not fried, I had it served from a pressure cooker, the bones became brittle and you basically ate the bones and all and could not tell the difference.

The second way was to smoke it on a pit, you stuff the body cavity with peppers and onions and seasonings of your choice, use extra virgin olive oil to line the inside cavity and then wrap the whole thing in foil and smoke with hickory or mesquite wood.

Both ways were actually pretty good, by no means was it better than catfish, crappie, or other fish, but if prepared the right way it can be pretty tasty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Back in the 80's I lived in Vermont, by the Connetticut river. A friend of mine caught a 3.5 foot carp in the river. None of us wanted to eat it but he had heard the Chinese at the local restaurant might buy it so he put it in his bathtub. There it was, occasionally sloshing the water out of the tub with it's tail. Turned out the Chinese had caught their own carp for the New Year Festival and they weren't interested in buying the monster in the tub. The guy who ran a local heath food restaurant said he'd give it to his pigs (causing a young and clueless girl to exclaim "but pigs are vegitarians!" and leaving witnesses dumbstruck with her ignorance). Anyway the guy wanted the carp but he said it had to be dead first. We decided it would be cool to test a sword I had (a falchion, actually), so we heaved the fish onto the front yard and with a ear piercing Kiai I bisected the fish with the sword. The pigs dined well that night and I can say that while I have yet to catch one on rod and reel in the water, I have "hunted" one on land with a falchion!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jshepard wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp came from Asia as a food source but never caught on. They escaped into every major river system of the country. I have had them many, many times and when the "mud line" is removed and they are deep fried like catfish, they were great. Hog suckers were equally good. Nixa, Mo. "Sucker Day " will cure you of your fear of these fish.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp is just another trash fish. If it takes that much effort to deep fry something to make it palatable, why bother?

MLH and snowninja hit the nail on the head. Go ahead and deep fry clog those arteries....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fishjay40 wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Not only have I never tried one, I have never caught one either. I don't care if my grandmother cooked this fish I still wouldn't eat it. They just do not look appealing at all!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fisher Boy wrote 5 years 1 week ago

if they are anything like smelt, just put some hot sauce on it and down it like a shot

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Never have tried it and do not think I ever will as long as I have other good tasting fish around me. Carp, from what I have learned/ been taught are not good tasting fish and seem a bit as junk fish (meaning they eat junk). I think I would pass on the carp... do not think I would ever go out of my way or even pay for a carp dinner.

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from dighunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I've bowfished a handful of them over the past few years, and my grandfather likes to eat the eggs. He fries them and says they tast like scrambled chicken eggs, but I have never been around when eats them. He says it is good, but I don't know if I'll be sampling anytime soon.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I just read a recipe for sucker/drum in the paper today,
like buckhunter said, NONE FOR ME PLEASE !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mbriardy wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I am a Nebraska native and Joe Tess' Place is an Omaha fixture. Many people that grew up in Omaha make a special trip to Joe Tess when they return. It's a strange local favorite. I personally like it a lot. I don't go there all that often, but just to get that unique taste again, I go back every once in a while. My father and brother both live in Colorado and love to go there when they come home. By the way, my father is CEO of a banking corporation, and could eat pretty much at any restaurant.
- Mike, Omaha, Nebraska

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from jay wrote 5 years 1 week ago

The process Joe is talking about is scoring. It works for both buffalo and carp. When you fillet a carp or buffalo, only remove the scales; leaving the skin on. Place the fillet on scoring board with the skin down. Cutting perpendicular to the fillet; make cuts every eighth to quarter inch thru the entire fillet. When you are slicing the fillet, the skin is pushed inbetween the scoring board slots. the skin then holds the meat together. the tiny bones get disolved when deep fried or at worst they are simply swallowed without getting stuck in your throat.

You can buy scoring boards but we always made ours homemade. Take a wide board, at least 10 inches wide by at least 3/4 inch think. Cut grooves every 1/8 inch long ways. this creates ridges and valleys in the board. lay your fillet on the board, skin down. The fillet should run parrellel to the ridges and valleys on the board.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No carp for me. I tried it once as a kid and swore it'll never happen again.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I squirm at the phrase, "If prepared correctly." Heck, fugu (blowfish) are okay, if prepared correctly ... will kill you otherwise. And, yes, I've had fugu. Only tried it because I had already sampled too much sake.

I try carp periodically - just like I venture into White Castle every year or so to see if my tastes have changed. The last time I tried carp was in a very nice French restaurant. Figured if anyone can prepare it correctly, it's the French. Well, they can't. It's better deep-fried to a greasy crisp.

So, in my book, carp are strictly catch and release. But, perhaps, like sliders, they become immensely palatable after a few beers. It's been a couple years since I've sampled carp. Maybe it's time to challenge my taste buds again.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 1 week ago

The carp is, as Izaak Walton reminds us, the queen of fish--and worth thinking about.

Don't ask if the carp is good enough for you to eat. Ask instead if you're good enough to eat carp"--as Vern Hacker says somebody once said ["Eating Carp," [Carp in North America (Bethesda, Maryland: American Fisheries Society, 1987), p. 49].

Let them eat carp ...

http://www.theinsidedope.blogspot.com/2006/03/let-them-eat-carp_26.html

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Walt Smith wrote 5 years 1 week ago

As a rule of thumb I don't eat carp. Love to bowshoot them and bury them under the wifes rose bushes but eat them- nope. Trout,salmon,perch,bluegill,catfish. Those are on my menu!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from snowninja wrote 5 years 1 week ago

A good friend of mine once told me the proper way to cook and eat carp. It is as follows: Clean and filet the fish as normal, then place on an oak board placed on the campfire. When the wood starts to charcoal, it's done. Then just throw the fish away and eat the board.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Back in the 80's I lived in Vermont, by the Connetticut river. A friend of mine caught a 3.5 foot carp in the river. None of us wanted to eat it but he had heard the Chinese at the local restaurant might buy it so he put it in his bathtub. There it was, occasionally sloshing the water out of the tub with it's tail. Turned out the Chinese had caught their own carp for the New Year Festival and they weren't interested in buying the monster in the tub. The guy who ran a local heath food restaurant said he'd give it to his pigs (causing a young and clueless girl to exclaim "but pigs are vegitarians!" and leaving witnesses dumbstruck with her ignorance). Anyway the guy wanted the carp but he said it had to be dead first. We decided it would be cool to test a sword I had (a falchion, actually), so we heaved the fish onto the front yard and with a ear piercing Kiai I bisected the fish with the sword. The pigs dined well that night and I can say that while I have yet to catch one on rod and reel in the water, I have "hunted" one on land with a falchion!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Yea I've eaten it many times. If done right it's good, but done poorly and you'll need paramedics to get those needle like bones out of your throat. I much prefer buffalo to carp. Most restaurants along the river feature buffalo sandwiches as a quick and good noon time meal.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from streack wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I would try it if it was made in a restaurant, because it has to pass FDA inspection first. As for trying them out of the local river, there is no chance, after seeing the types of trash in that river it makes me glad we have a well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 5 years 1 week ago

As long as someone knows how to get around the bones, its not bad. Not that good, but not bad.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from timromano wrote 5 years 1 week ago

well, I'd try anything once...

Sounds pretty horrible though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Forgot to mention that the reason they cut those slits in the meat is so the hot oil gets in there and melts the bones...so they say

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Have been to Joe Tess's place.
Less than impressed, but plenty of food for low price.
Don't know why a food show would go there to do a show, as it's basically just a fast food place, with nothing else to recommend it.
Carp can be good if properly prepared, lots of small bones though.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

streack

FYI, there are no FDA inspections on domestic seafood, shellfish, and fish; ergo so many food poisonings.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NY Survivor wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I would be willing to give them a try, especially since I do sometimes fish for them. It reminds me of when I moved from Tennessee to New York. I used to fish for and eat catfish. Here in New York they want nothing to do with a catfish. However I know a lot of people that fish for and eat Bullhead. They don't seem to realize that a Bullhead is a type of catfish. Go figure.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Pan-sized bullheads are good eatin'.
Once over that size they get mushy, just like catfish.
Both carp and catfish are fun catching, but they were where I first learned catch and release.
By the way, as I recall from the menu at Joe Tess's, seems like they served more catfish than carp.
Anybody here have fond recollections of eating pan fried smelt, like I do? Once again, the smaller, the better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Fried smelt! Mmm, mmm, delicious! Annual treat during the winter/early spring run. One of our local towns even has a Smelt Derby.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wallofsam wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I'll stick to bullhead and Budweiser.Although last month, in TN, I went to a chinese restaurant and ate sushi, clamari, escargo, and raw oysters. So I guess never say never.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I'd try it again, but my first try was not good.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from John L wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp doesn't have a whole lot of taste or flavor on it's own, so the preparation is everything. Same as with many things, snails (escargot), calamari (squid) etc.
Same as with salmon, there is the darker meat and the lighter meat, get rid of the dark part. The white part is mild.
Pickled carp is good, if barely worth the effort.
STILL, way better than another upper midwest staple....lutefisk! If you are ever tempted to try that...run.
To MLH, last fancy French restaurant I was in had smelt on the menu as an appetizer, so I had to order it and was really looking forward to it. It was awful.
Just as with sardines, the smaller the smelt the better.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 1 week ago

John L - Lutefisk! Now that's a menacing way to kill an appetite. Okay, carp's not that bad after all ... even the dark meat.

Actually, the best sardine (pilchard) I ever had was pan-sized - salted and flame grilled until the skin was black. Mouthwatering. Have to agree with you on the smelt.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Far Rider wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I've never eaten carp, but I've had yellow suckers and hog suckers many times, both of which are very bony. To get rid of the bones, we score them like MLH said and the grease dissolves the bones. Deep fried suckers fresh from the river are great eating.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dwaynez wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I have eaten carp before, but it was not fried, I had it served from a pressure cooker, the bones became brittle and you basically ate the bones and all and could not tell the difference.

The second way was to smoke it on a pit, you stuff the body cavity with peppers and onions and seasonings of your choice, use extra virgin olive oil to line the inside cavity and then wrap the whole thing in foil and smoke with hickory or mesquite wood.

Both ways were actually pretty good, by no means was it better than catfish, crappie, or other fish, but if prepared the right way it can be pretty tasty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jshepard wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp came from Asia as a food source but never caught on. They escaped into every major river system of the country. I have had them many, many times and when the "mud line" is removed and they are deep fried like catfish, they were great. Hog suckers were equally good. Nixa, Mo. "Sucker Day " will cure you of your fear of these fish.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Carp is just another trash fish. If it takes that much effort to deep fry something to make it palatable, why bother?

MLH and snowninja hit the nail on the head. Go ahead and deep fry clog those arteries....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fishjay40 wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Not only have I never tried one, I have never caught one either. I don't care if my grandmother cooked this fish I still wouldn't eat it. They just do not look appealing at all!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fisher Boy wrote 5 years 1 week ago

if they are anything like smelt, just put some hot sauce on it and down it like a shot

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 1 week ago

Never have tried it and do not think I ever will as long as I have other good tasting fish around me. Carp, from what I have learned/ been taught are not good tasting fish and seem a bit as junk fish (meaning they eat junk). I think I would pass on the carp... do not think I would ever go out of my way or even pay for a carp dinner.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I've bowfished a handful of them over the past few years, and my grandfather likes to eat the eggs. He fries them and says they tast like scrambled chicken eggs, but I have never been around when eats them. He says it is good, but I don't know if I'll be sampling anytime soon.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Big O wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I just read a recipe for sucker/drum in the paper today,
like buckhunter said, NONE FOR ME PLEASE !

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from alabamahunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I love the show and the host is pretty cool, but I don't know that I would be wild about trying carp. Why eat carp when catfish are just as plentiful and cheap? Not to mention easier to prepare and milder.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mbriardy wrote 4 years 5 weeks ago

I am a Nebraska native and Joe Tess' Place is an Omaha fixture. Many people that grew up in Omaha make a special trip to Joe Tess when they return. It's a strange local favorite. I personally like it a lot. I don't go there all that often, but just to get that unique taste again, I go back every once in a while. My father and brother both live in Colorado and love to go there when they come home. By the way, my father is CEO of a banking corporation, and could eat pretty much at any restaurant.
- Mike, Omaha, Nebraska

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