Jews who keep the kashrut rules know when to inquire about the food offered from unfamiliar sources. Sometimes it’s obvious, while other times a little investigating might be necessary. These days, with farmed fish, blends, and processing, things can get a little complicated. Here are some explanations to demystify kosher in the current food production environment.
Kosher Fish Show Obvious Scales
A kosher fish has scales that are easy to see. Scales that appear after soaking generally don’t make kosher lists. Neither do fish that haven’t matured enough to get scales; if you’re fishing for your supper, throw those back in the water!
Some fish, such as sturgeon and swordfish, lose scales as they mature. Different groups have different opinions on whether these are kosher. Orthodox rabbis generally say they aren’t, while most Conservative rabbis say they are acceptable
Fish that shed their scales once they have dried out are fine, not to mention easier to prepare for the grill or oven.
Farms and Fins
All fish have fins—even eels—since tails are considered fins. It’s the scales that matter. In addition, the fish’s origins have no impact on kosher rules, so fish with the right scales can come from a farm or the wild.
Does This Counter Have Kosher Fish?
Many counter staff at grocery stores can tell you if the fish variety you’re checking out is kosher. If they can’t, ask them to tear off a scale. If it comes off easily without ripping the flesh, it can be considered kosher, says MyJewishLearning.com, which consulted with the US’ Orthodox Union’s Webbe Reader.
You can also simply limit your purchases to kosher markets and suppliers, too. It may mean driving out of your way but the peace of mind is probably worth the effort.
Fish are Not Subject to Glatt Designation
Keep in mind that glatt refers to meat from earthbound animals without visible defects and smooth lungs (the word translates into “smooth”). There is no glatt designation for fish. Of course, no kosher kitchen–or any responsible party–would accept or prepare a fish with an unhealthy appearance such as a lesion.
Here’s an easy recipe for fish with a tahini (sesame seed) sauce for Chanukah to serve with your latkes (here’s our recipe). I found this on Levanacooks.com. Levana loves tilapia but other firm-flesh fish will work with it, too.
8 fillets, 7-9 oz each
Vegetable spray or oil
Tahina sauce (recipe below)
Sliced scallions or chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 375F/190C
Spray or brush fish with vegetable oil on both sides. Place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until it flakes easily. Serve warm, drizzled with tahini sauce and garnish with scallions or parsley.
Tahini sauce ingredients
1 lb silken tofu
¾ c tahini/sesame paste
4 cloves garlic
1 c water
½ c lemon juice
1 T cumin
salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste
Blend tahini, garlic, and water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend til smooth. Refrigerate any leftover sauce.