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You are watching: Are koi fish good to eat


In 1939, a fishy undergraduate bet at Harvard caused the first tape-recorded “goldfish swenabling.”

Goldfish obviously aren’t typically dinner, yet the prank recorded on, leading to a nationwide college campus craze of goldfish gulping as a famous thing to dare unsuspecting underclassguys to perform.

Maybe you’re wondering exactly how on Planet someone might ever before want to eat a fish you would certainly otherwise discover swimming roughly in a bowl or aquarium. Then aget, maybe you’re all of a sudden eyeing your koi pond and founding to wonder if that’s really even feasible.

Of course, koi ponds are lovely outdoor fixtures, while koi themselves are prized fish in much of Asia.


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Gulping one down would certainly be pretty gauche, not to mention expensive, the many expensive koi deserve to go for over a million pounds.

Still, assuming you aren’t eating your pet or dining on some of the world’s the majority of expensive fish, the question stays – can you eat koi, and also if so, how and also what is it like?

Koi 101

Of course, not all fish are created equal. That’s specifically true about koi, which are the result of centuries of reproduction to produce fish that are renowned for their grace, beauty, and specifically their distinctive reddish-orange and silvered speckled appearance.

Koi are very closely connected through Japanese society in particular, come in even more than 20 various varieties, and are symbolic of whatever from love and wide range to luck and also prosperity.

What’s even more, they have the right to live for a lengthy time. Your average goldfish often tends to last simply a few years, however koi deserve to live for even more than a quarter century, rather a long time in “fish years.”

Koi are freshwater fish, making them all the less complicated to keep (and also prepare cooking-wise, if you are so inclined). Ideally, these ponds need to be a few feet deep.

They can eat whatever from algae to various other fish and also some fruit, and have the right to grow to large sizes.

But does that expect you can start “fattening up” your koi for their unfortunate fine dining fate?

Koi are a committed subspecies of a widespread Oriental breed of carp, and contrary to what you can have actually check out on the Net, they are not poikid, so yes, it is technically possible to eat them. Doing so would certainly intend eating something that’s prefer carp.

See my overview on the distinctions between Koi and other carp.

Of Koi and also Carp


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Of course, that begs the question – are carp great to eat in the initially place?

If you’re an experienced at capturing or food preparation fish (a real “a-fish-ionado,” if you will) you’ve more than likely currently laughed this off favor a wine snob being asked around Two Buck Chuck.

Just like this inwell known form of wine, carp is listed for being inexpensive and tasting like a certain rearrangement of the letters in “carp” itself.

From tasting choose “mud” or “Pigs with Fins,” plenty of fishermen and chefs have actually their own one-of-a-kind means to “carping about” how poor carp tastes – however is that really fair?

Well, yes and also no.

On the one hand, carp definitely isn’t the kind of fish you’d intend to be offered at a fine dining establishment. It is incredibly common in both Asia and also the waters of Europe and The United States and Canada, wright here it has actually been presented over the centuries as an invasive species.

That is component of the factor why carp have such a negative reputation among Western fish eaters in specific.

Remember when we talked about how koi have the right to eat everything from algae to fruits to various other fish? Well, the old expression “you are what you eat” certainly rings true here, as the taste of fish is in part dependent on what they’ve eaten, carp contained.

That being shelp, because carp are an invasive species, they are regularly found in areas wbelow they’re “not supposed to be,” which as you deserve to imagine isn’t exactly the ideal situation for them to be eating the kinds of things that are either nutritious or will certainly carry out their complete flavor.

Placed ssuggest, the reason so many type of Western carp have that “muddy,” “oily,” or “trashy” taste is because that’s possibly component of what they’re eating in the settings in which they have been introduced.

Carp is particularly prevalent in lakes in the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern USA, all locations wright here their numbers have actually surged because of their invasive nature.

This indicates that there are even more carp than these freshwater areas deserve to possibly handle, and that the waters in which they are multiplying aren’t always the cleacolony.

For instance, Dr. Seuss alluded to Ohio’s once-filthy rivers in the original version of The Lorax, via sad Seussian fish leaving “In search of some water that isn’t so smeary. I hear points are just as bad up in Lake Erie.” While Seuss later removed the line after Lake Erie came to be a lot cleaner, it isn’t hard to imagine exactly how fish living in those kinds of conditions most likely don’t wind up tasting the ideal.

By contrast, areas such as China and Japan, wbelow these fish are indigenous, often have better climates for these fish.

It isn’t as though these nations are complimentary of polluted waters, but carp, including koi, are lugged up in their own waters and also those habitats are in excellent condition, the flavor deserve to be much much better.

The exact same holds true for those calling carp in cleaner waters “the Queen of the Rivers” in the USA.

The oily taste in this case comes much more from the fish’s natural oils. Still, any type of way you slice it, carp still has a a lot tougher texture than many kind of other kinds of commonly-eaten fish.

The Case for Eating Koi

By this suggest, you can begin to check out why some people might begin to wonder if koi fish are actually swimming buffets in disguise. After all, while you don’t desire to turn your pets right into dinner, the problems to perform so are arguably much better than through wild carp in some wild lakes and rivers.

Instead of polluted waters, cramped confines, and bad food top quality, koi ponds have actually cleaner water, even more room to swim, and are commonly filled via better food.

This has actually not gone unnoticed by some culinary traditions which manipulate koi.

In particular, Bengali cuisine includes tel koi, a famous fish curry. It deserve to be all set in a variety of methods evoking East Indian culinary heritages.

Cooking koi is reasonably easy, though with the tougher skin and also texture it could take longer than other fish. Still, as soon as you have rerelocated the inner organs, you have the right to steam or fry koi with ease. Cooking it for about 15 minutes have to be sufficient.

You may additionally desire to add some herbs together with olive oil and also oyster sauce to marinate it.

The Case for Not Eating Koi


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All of that being shelp, yet, it’s mostly not advisable to turn your koi pond into an instant seafood totally free for all.

The reality of the matter is that while as carp your koi are edible, as many freshwater fish are, tbelow are still plenty of reasons why you most likely shouldn’t eat them.

For starters, it’s just “not done.” Koi are beautiful, majestic creatures – do you really want to slaughter them, slather them with sauce, and also serve them on a plate?

Sure, swans are “technically edible” as well, yet if you seriously said killing and also eating such majestic (not to point out expensive) creatures, you’d most likely face a substantial level of disgust and backlash.

The very same goes for koi.

It is not considered socially correct by many kind of to eat the sort of koi you keep in your pond.

Besides the reality that killing and also eating pets simply looks awful, these koi are, aobtain, a committed subspecies, and also so are not frequently linked with the common edible carp to which they are associated biologically yet not connotatively.

After all, the carp that is frequently caught in rivers is reasonably dull in shade and can look pretty blasé. By contrast, as pointed out, the sort of koi we keep in ponds are detailed for their incredibly beautiful speckled coats.

It is shenable to make decisions based on looks, but still, eating somepoint so elegant and beautiful just feels wrong.

Besides that, koi are, as stated over, closely attached through Japanese culture.

Just as you wouldn’t fry up a bald eagle or beaver, and also would understand why an American or Canadian would certainly be infuriated if you did, killing elegant pond koi could be seen as culturally insensitive (to say the least) and insulting to Japanese world.

Final Thoughts

So, wright here does that leave us on the issue of eating koi?

On the one hand also, you have the right to certainly eat carp, the fish to which koi are associated.

They may not have the world’s “cleanest” reputation and will never before be assumed of as the finest fish in the sea delicacy-wise, however correctly fished and cleaned, they deserve to make for an inexpensive and maybe surpincreasing meal, particularly when served in standard Asian and also Indian dishes.

On the other hand also, koi themselves aren’t necessarily fit for this. It’s simply not appropriate, can be insulting, and also anymeans the fish are so expensive (whereas carp are pretty inexpensive) that it’s simply not worth it.

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Most koi are also significant for that “goldfish swallowing” prank anymethod, however also if they weren’t, they’re more than likely best left to probing the depths of your koi pond in peace.


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