Whole Rohu Carp [Rohu, Rohu labeo (India & elsewhere); Labeo rohita]

This fish, native to the rivers of South Asia, is very popular in Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh and northern India, especially in West Bengal. It can grow to over 6 feet and 99 pounds, but is generally marketed much smaller. It is farmed in Karala state, India and has been introduced to other regions for stocking reservoirs and aquaculture. It is Red List rated LC (Least Concern).   Photo by Khalid Mahmood distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

More on the Carp Family.

The flesh of Rohu is white, tender, smooth in texture and mild with practically no "fishy" taste. Just about anyone should find it enjoyable - but, Rohu does, like all carp, have a "spine problem" similar to Milkfish (Bangus), a fish in a related order. Some find the spines rather annoying, but unlike those of the milkfish they are impossible to remove before cooking. To enjoy delicious carp Americans just have to learn to deal with the spines at the table like the rest of the world does. If you don't want to deal with them, use catfish instead (unless you're an observant Jew or Muslim - catfish isn't kosher or halal).

Personally I don't have a problem with the spines. As with most fish I eat carp with chopsticks, breaking it up as I go along. The spines are are easy to find that way. In India, this fish, like everything else, is eaten with the fingers, so they have no problem finding and removing the spines there either. In any case, do provide a small bowl or some other way for your guests to dispose of the spines. Even in formal Victorian society it was permissible to remove fish bones from the mouth (but nothing else).

There's no need to skin Rohu, but some picky eaters just won't eat skin, so you may want to serve filets skin side down so such people can leave it on the plate easily, or you can easily peel it off after cooking.

Buying:   At this time, Rohu is not available in North America, where carp isn't as widely popular as it is in most of the world. The Asian Silver Carp that now infests the Mississippi basin (and is available live in Asian markets here in Los Angeles) is an excellent substitute. The Common Carp, also widely available, can be used as well. The larger the fish you buy, the less problem dealing with the spines in the flesh.

Cooking:   Most cooking methods suitable for a large fish can be used for Rohu. It remains firm enough to steam and pan fries just fine with a light dusting of rice flour. It is tender, so while simmering for 10 to 15 minutes is fine, a rapid boil or much longer cooking is likely to break it up.

Do Not cut carp into pieces smaller than about 2 inches on a side. Doing so makes the spines nearly impossible to deal with.

Scales:   Rohu is completely covered with large scales. Adhesion is moderate so they're not hard to scrape off, but they are springy so they'll fly around a bit. They curl as they dry so they're not difficult to clean up, but make sure they don't get into your drains, they could cause a clog.

Cleaning:   This fish is fairly easy to clean, just cut from the vent right up to the underside of the jaw (you'll need kitchen shears from the pelvic fins forward) and pull stuff out. There's a big two chamber swim bladder but it comes out easily and the gills are fairly easy to pull out. The one obstacle is the throat which contains a grinding mechanism that's not real easy to pull out.

Skin:   Rohu skin does not shrink badly when cooked. It has no strong or objectional flavors, so it hardly seems worth the bother to remove it. If you insist, Rohu fillets can be skinned fairly easily using the standard long knife and cutting board Method.

Fillet:   This fish is easy to fillet with plenty of bones to follow. It is one fish where I fillet the flesh off the ribs rather than cut them loose and deal with them on the fillet. They're easy to follow and carp bones are stuck in hard and difficult to pull.

Yield:   Yield should be pretty much like Common Carp and Silver Carp, fillets about 47% skin-on and 41% skin-off.

Soup Stock:   Carp heads, fins and bones make a serviceable medium flavored stock, and you could probably toss in skins as well. There is very little oil - but you should separate what there is and discard it (use your gravy separator).

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