Elgin loves what he can do with cuban (formerly Asian carp)

As the old saying goes, you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

So why not call it something else?

That’s the strategy for the much-named invasive Asian carp, which was rebranded Wednesday by the state of Illinois and several partner organizations as “copi” and is now the subject of a new marketing campaign to get consumers and dealers to jump on board.

Part of this strategy is to get people to actually taste cuban, which is described as a mild, clean-tasting fish with heart-healthy omega-3s and very low levels of mercury.

On Thursday, about a dozen Kobo Sushi taste testers gathered in Elgin to try chopped kobe in an Asian-inspired slider.

The ground cuban was mixed with Japanese barbecue sauce, some panko breadcrumbs, and Italian seasoning. They are fried in the pan to help keep their shape and then grilled.

The slider was topped with pickled radish, spiced radish, sushi vinegar, a sake/mirin mix and some greens, served with a side of yuzu aioli.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

It’s delicious,” said Molly Gillespie, director of communications for Elgin. “The slider has a really good balance of bacon and heat, and the fish holds really well. So fun.”

Mild fish is perfect for any kitchen, said Chris Palermo, owner of Kobo Sushi. But he was equally eager to use it for conservation reasons.

“After researching and learning about it, I am really proud to be a part of this,” Palermo said. “It’s my way of giving back to the ecosystem that has been good for me.”

Palermo said he was planning to create more menu items with copi.

“You will probably be part of Kobo for a long time,” he said.

The City of Elgin sponsored the tasting event on Thursday, which was scheduled to include Kobo taking out free samples later in the afternoon and evening. The city will also donate $1 for each sample passed to Friends of Fox River.

Ted Beneses, director of community outreach with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said state officials know they can’t eradicate the fish, but hope that by offering it as an inexpensive and versatile food source, they can reduce their “excessive” numbers.

“Restoring that balance back in the Illinois River is what this is all about,” he said.

A sophisticated list of restaurants and retailers serving copies can be found at ChooseCopi.com.

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