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Free Asian carp at Taste Of Chicago

Asian Carp Sliders were handed out free 2012 Taste Chicago. When carp was detected recently Will County Forest Preserve District

Asian Carp Sliders were handed out free at the 2012 Taste of Chicago. When the carp was detected recently in a Will County Forest Preserve District lake, one board member suggested a fish fry. | Photo courtesy Dirk Fucik

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Updated: August 12, 2012 6:30AM

They’re unwelcome, but Asian carp aren’t gross.

Mostly, they’re just misunderstood, fish experts say.

But judge for yourself if Asian carp are delectable or disgusting.

Free Asian carp sliders slathered with jalapeno chutney and made by award-winning Chicago fishmonger Dirk Fucik will be handed out Wednesday beginning at noon near the entrance to the Taste of Chicago at Congress Parkway.

“Asian carp have a perception problem,” said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“People think Asian carp and they think, ‘Gross!’ . . . People associate them with the common carp, which root around in the mud looking for worms and are considered a trash fish with a muddy taste,” McCloud said. “But Asian carp swim in mid to upper water levels and eat plankton. They’re a slightly bony, healthy, meaty fish and taste like most any whitefish.”

The hangup for many is the name.

“We’re not a marketing firm,” McCloud said. “But I’ve heard them being called silver fin in place of Asian carp. Orange roughy used to be called slime head before they became orange roughy, and now it’s overfished. Same for the Patagonian toothfish, which is now called Chilean sea bass,” he said.

“I mean, heck, lobster back in the 1800s was considered only for poor people . . . it looks like an underwater scorpion!” McCloud said.

Fucik, who owns Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop, adds tarragon, lemon zest, salt, pepper and bread crumbs to the ground Asian carp meat and plans to hand out more than 750 sliders.

“I sell ground Asian carp burgers at my store in Lincoln Park for $8 a pound,” Fucik said. “We have free samples Saturday from noon to three and at first people are reluctant, but then they take a bite and think it’s amazing.”

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