As hated as the carp is in this country, the taco is loved just as strongly.
It’s true. There’s nothing more American than a good taco, unless, of course, you count the act of taking another culture's food, repackaging it for the American palate and claiming it as our own. We freakin' love that!
I kid, but in a sense, that’s really how modern Tex-Mex got its start.
Think about it, you take some perfectly good taco meat, grind it up, drop it in a tortilla, cover it up with some lettuce, tomato and sour cream, and then pile enough shredded yellow cheese on top until even your own abuelita wouldn’t recognize it.
Boom, you just made some Tex-Mex, and it’s delicious.
That’s pretty much the format we’ll be following with this recipe, with the exception of the “perfectly good taco meat” part.
Yes, for this recipe, we’ll be using that most hated of all fish - the common carp.
To do this right, you’ll need a meat grinder with a fine plate, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 7mm. That’s because we’ll be grinding at least some of the carp’s bones with the meat. Before you start this recipe, do your best to debone the meat, but know that a few passes through the grinder and the cooking process will be able to take care of whatever you leave behind.
Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the process of combining some of this country's most and least favorite things.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
½ pound of carp meat, cut into 1x1in cubes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups lettuce, shredded
½ cup tomato, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
6 flour tortillas, the fluffier, the better
Sour cream or creme fraiche, for serving
Shredded cheese, for serving
The first thing you’ll want to do is take your cubed carp meat, as well as all the pieces of your meat grinder, and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. If you’ve ever ground meat before, you know that the colder everything is, the easier it tends to go.
With everything chilled, run your carp meat through the grinder twice, to ensure that all the bones have been broken down. You can run it more than twice if you’re really worried about it, but things might get a little emulsified after the second pass.
Because so much of this recipe relies on the seasoning mix, it’s one of the situations where I prefer to toast and grind my spices immediately before use.
To do this, take your red chili flakes, cumin seeds and peppercorns and add them to a heavy bottomed frying pan. Heat the spices together until they become fragrant. Toasting spices in this manner releases additional oils, something that should make your finished product that much more flavorful.
Once the spices have cooled, toss them in a clean spice or coffee grinder, and add the onion powder. Grind everything together into a nice homogenous powder.
Take your spice mix and work it into the ground carp by hand. You’ll slowly work in the vegetable oil to give your meat the fattier feel you would naturally get from pork or beef. Add your seasoned meat to a frying pan. You’ll want to cook everything for about 15 minutes over a medium-high heat, being sure to stir to prevent burning. Once cooked, turn down the heat to low, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and cover for another 10 minutes. This extra steaming process should help take care of any bones that survived the grinding and cooking.
Warm your tortillas in the microwave while the meat finishes steaming.
To serve, add a few spoonfuls of the carp meat to a warm tortilla. Top with lettuce, tomato, cilantro, sour cream and, of course, a handful of shredded yellow cheese.
Much like Tex-Mex food in general, the finished product sort of straddles the line between a few different areas.
Is this fish? Is this beef? Is this really enough cheese?
Don’t sweat the answers too much.
Just know that it’s good.