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Can You Eat Koi Fish?

Koi is a type of Amur Carp which is raised for its beauty and color instead of for food. But carp, which includes Koi, is a tasty fish that’s eaten all over the world. Koi were originally brought to Japan for food and raised in rice-fish systems. But eventually the Japanese grew to appreciate the beauty of Koi fish and started raising them as pets instead of as food. These days Koi are a part of Japanese culture and seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Koi fish have become one of the most sought after and expensive fish in the world with some selling for over 1.5 million dollars at auction. But the average full grown Koi sells for around $100. Can you eat Koi fish? Yes you can, they taste like catfish and can be grilled, cooked in a pan or made into a soup.

Cooking Koi fish is just like any other type of carp. They have a distinct flavor and can be a bit oily so they’re not a good choice for lighter fish recipes. And they’re a rough fish that contain lots of intramuscular bones and thick scales which makes them difficult to clean.

As with most fish, where and when you catch a Koi and how its prepared makes a big difference in its taste and texture. Koi that are raised to be pets aren’t the best choice for eating. Their high price is due to their beauty and not their taste. Even wild Koi caught in clean fresh water can be tough and oily. They won’t be served in a fine dining restaurant anytime soon. But when cooked correctly they’ll make a good meal should you happen to catch one.

Raised Vs Wild Koi Fish

There’s a big difference between Koi fish that are found in the wild and Koi that are raised for show.

Wild Koi are a type of Amur carp that’s native to fresh bodies of water around the Black, Aral and Caspian Seas. Domesticated in the 19th century, Koi are now found throughout the world.

The Koi fish you see in fish tanks, ponds and aquariums have been bread for centuries to enhance their beauty and distinctive reddish-orange and silver speckled appearance. Koi fish have become synonymous with Japanese culture and are considered a symbol of prosperity, luck, wealth, love and good fortune.

Here are a few facts you may not know about Koi:

  • Koi are omnivorous feeders who will eat food at all depths of water.
  • They can live for over 25 years when properly cared for which is quite a long time for a fish.
  • Koi are freshwater fish.
  • They’re a type of carp.
  • Koi are not picky eaters. They’ll eat everything from algae, other fish and some types of fruit.
  • They can grow to very large sizes when given enough food and space.
  • They’re not poisonous.
  • They can be eaten.

Koi are a domesticated subspecies of Amur carp which is an Asian breed of carp. Although Koi are not raised as food, they can be eaten. Especially if you catch one in the wild.

The domesticated form of Koi are not that much different from their wild cousins. However because Koi are not bread as food most people don’t actually eat them. A full grown Koi costs over $100 on average which is very expensive for a fish. There are much cheaper and better tasting fish on the market.

Are Koi Fish Good To Eat?

Koi fish can be eaten, but like all carp, they contain lots of bones, are a bit oily and have a distinct taste some refer to as “muddy”. They’re not the best tasting fish and are hard to clean. But when prepared correctly they’ll still make a good meal if you catch one while camping. But you won’t be finding Koi on the menu of a fine dining restaurant any time soon.

Koi are originally from Asia but are now found in both Europe and North America. Many people outside of Asia consider them an invasive species because they’re not native to those waters. But should you catch one they’re generally OK to eat and are not poisonous.

Koi have a diverse diet which include everything from algae to fruits and other fish? Depending on what the fish eats it will effect its taste. This is why some species of Koi taste better than others.

The reason many carp have an “oily” or “muddy” taste is because of what they eat in the local environment. Generally Western or European carp have a more oily taste with a tougher texture than Asian carp.

In places like China and Japan, where Koi are indigenous the taste is a little better. When Koi are raised in fresher, less polluted water their taste tends to be better because they eat less random gunk.

Koi are still an oily fish no matter where you catch them. But in Asia its the fish’s natural oils and not a bi-product of what they eat. With Western and European Koi the oily taste gets worse and the fish gets tougher due to diet.

Are Koi good to eat? They’re not the best fish or my first choice, but they’re edible and a good meal if you’re hungry.

Why Eat Koi

In some parts of the world Koi are being raised in tanks for food and not for sale as a show fish.

Because tank raised fish are fed cleaner food and the water is filtered its meat becomes less oily. Koi have a diverse diet that ranges from algae, to fruit and even other fish. Eating random foods changes their flavor and makes the meat tougher. By controlling their diet and using filtration fish farmers have more control over the how the fish grow.

Instead of polluted waters and poor food quality, tank raised Koi have cleaner water and better food. The result is a less oily more tender fish.

Bengali cuisine includes tel Koi, a popular fish curry. It’s prepared in a variety of ways with East Indian culinary traditions.

Cooking Koi is easy once its been properly cleaned. Their good grilled, pan fried, as a soup or in the oven. But cleaning them can be a challenge unless you know how. They’re a rough fish with thick scales and lots of intramuscular bones.

To counter the fish’s oily taste add some strong seasoning like herbs, pepper, salt, garlic, onion, lemon and oyster sauce. They’re better with lots of seasonings rather than a lighter recipe where you can taste more of the fish.

Why eat Koi? They reproduce quickly and are easy to raise. Their taste and texture aren’t too bad if you raise them correctly. And they grow to large sizes which produces lots of meat.

Why Not Eat Koi

Although Koi and other types of carp can be raised for food, is that really a good idea.

Koi are a symbol of prosperity, luck, wealth, love and good fortune in Japanese culture. They’re raised and sold for their beauty and not for the meat. Some Koi have sold for over 1.5 million dollars because of how prized they are. With so many other food fish to raise which taste better and provide more meat there’s really no benefit to eating Koi on a large scale.

Koi are considered pets just like a goldfish. And in most cultures it’s considered wrong to eat them.

Wild carp that you can catch in fresh water rivers are dull in color and definitely not a show fish. If you catch one in the wild and are hungry they make an OK meal. But they’re not nearly as good as a salmon, cod, mahi-mahi, tuna, trout, etc. As far as good eating fish go, carp are at the bottom of the list.

By contrast, the Koi raised for show are bright and colorful speckled coat. They’re not valued for their meat but for their beauty.

Although it’s fine to eat a wild carp you catch while fishing, they’re not the best tasting fish. Farm raised Koi are much better off being sold as pets than as food. On average a full grown Koi sells for around $100. But as food it’s doubtful they’d fetch 10% of that price. There are much better options when shopping the fish market.

What Does Koi Fish Taste Like?

Koi is an oily fish with a “muddy” taste which is sort of like a catfish. They’re a rough fresh water fish with thick scales, lots of bones and a tough texture. A Koi fish’s diet is very diverse which includes algae, fruit and other fish. They pretty much eat whatever they find from the top the bottom of a river. For this reason where you catch a Koi changes its flavor.

Koi are native to Asia but are now found throughout the world. If you catch one in a very clean river with good food sources the flavor and texture will be better. But if you catch one in a polluted river with lots of algae and gunk for them to feed on the taste won’t be great.

Generally the worse the Koi’s diet the oilier and tougher they get.

Koi are best grilled, pan fried or made into soup with lots of additional flavors and/or sauces that cover up the fish’s flavor and tenderize it a bit. Stay away from lighter recipes where you can taste the fish more.

Fried Koi Fish Recipe

Fried fish is a staple of Southern cooking. Whether its deep-fried, battered, breaded with cornmeal, or simply dredged in flour, you can’t go wrong when pan frying a freshly caught fish.

While some fish are best with a simple dredge of flour, Koi need a thick coat of cornmeal breading.

Koi benefits from lots of additional flavoring and textures. Stay away from lighter recipes where you can taste the meat more.

This is a simple recipe, but there are a few keys to good fried Koi: Hot oil and the right breading. If you’ve ever had soggy, greasy fried fish, it’s because the oil was too cold. You want it around 350°F.

Use peanut oil or lard if you can. They add a lot of flavor.

Use fine, white cornmeal for the breading. But if you can’t find finely ground use regular white cornmeal mixed with a little flour. Unless it’s finely ground the crust can taste gritty.

Use salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic, cayenne and some celery seed for seasoning. Alter this if you have a preference for a different taste. It doesn’t matter much what seasonings you use.

Serve your Koi with cole slaw and hush puppies (a fried cornmeal dumpling). And have some hot sauce on the side, too.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Servings: 4

Nutritional Facts Per Serving: About 675 calories, 38g of fat, 34g carbs and 45g or protein.

Note: This frying method works with pretty much any thin fish fillet. If you can’t find Koi try tilapia, bass, flounder, black seabass or fluke.

Ingredients

  • About 1 to 2 pounds Koi Fish
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk (use whole milk)
  • Salt
  • 3/4 fine cornmeal (do not use coarsely ground cornmeal)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • Oil or lard for frying (use peanut oil if you can)

Step 1. Heat oil in a pan & preheat the oven

In a heavy frying pan (I prefer cast iron), pour enough oil to come 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Heat the pan on medium-high.

Heat your oven to 200°F and lay a cookie sheet inside. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet.

Step 2. Soak Koi in milk or buttermilk

While the oil is heating, soak the Koi in milk or buttermilk.

Step 3: Mix together cornmeal, flour and spices for dredging

Mix the cornmeal, flour and spices together in a shallow dish for dredging.

Step 4: Dredge fillets in flour

Place the fish into the flour and spice mix making sure to coat all sides. Then sprinkle a little extra salt on the outside.

Step 5: Fry the fish

Let the oil reach at least 350°F. A good test of heat is to flick a little of the dry breading into the oil, if it sizzles the oil is hot enough.

Once the oil is hot enough gently lay the fish down into the oil.

Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes depending on how thick the fillet is. Use a metal spatula to gently turn the fish over. Then cook for another 2-4 minutes.

Monitor the heat as you fry. Don;t let the oil get cool or too hot.

Step 6: Keep cooked fillets warm in the oven

Once the first fillet is done move it into the oven while you fry the remaining fish. Keeping the Koi warm in the oven will also keep it crisp.

Step 7: Serve your Koi fish

When they’re all done cooking, serve your Koi fish with some hot sauce, cole slaw and a few hush puppies.

Summary: Can You Eat Koi Fish?

Koi is a type of Amur Carp which is raised for its beauty and color instead of for food. But carp, which includes Koi, is a tasty fish that’s eaten all over the world. Koi were originally brought to Japan for food and raised in rice-fish systems. But eventually the Japanese grew to appreciate the beauty of Koi fish and started raising them as pets instead of as food. These days Koi are a part of Japanese culture and seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Koi fish have become one of the most sought after and expensive fish in the world with some selling for over 1.5 million dollars at auction. But the average full grown Koi sells for around $100. Can you eat Koi fish? Yes you can, they taste like catfish and can be grilled, cooked in a pan or made into a soup.

Cooking Koi is just like any other type of carp. They have a distinct flavor and can be a bit oily so they’re not a good choice for lighter fish recipes. And they’re a rough fish that contain lots of intramuscular bones and thick scales which makes them difficult to clean.

As with most fish, where and when you catch a Koi and how its prepared makes a big difference in its taste and texture. Koi that are raised to be pets aren’t the best choice for eating. Their high price is due to their beauty and not their taste. Even wild Koi caught in clean fresh water can be tough and oily. They won’t be served in a fine dining restaurant anytime soon. But when cooked correctly they’ll make a good meal should you happen to catch one.

If you have any questions or comments about Koi email any time.

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