Monday, December 11, 2006

Species Focus: John Dory

In case you are wondering why we started with John Dory, the answer is: why not!

I have not personally even eaten John Dory (also known as St. Peter's Fish) which is one of those "exotic" fish that people inquire as to whether or not it is kosher because it seems exciting. It comes from Australia, which means two things to most kosher consumers:

1. It is going to be expensive
2. It is likely to be skinned

For those of you not excluded because of #1, #2 is going to be an issue. The first rule in kosher fish is that it must either have skin on (so that you can check for kaskeses yourself) or have hashgacha.

Yes, from what we have seen John Dory (Zeus Faber) appears to be kosher. Its scales seems to be small and smoewhat embedded (referred to as scutes), though they are still kosher if they can be removed without ripping skin. Someone who has tried it themselves should kindly reply to this post and tell us about it.

Just to mention, talk about John Dory feeding on non-kosher species should not discourage you from buying it (for those familiar with the prohibition of eating something whose entire plumpness is derived from forbidden foods). We noted that it feeds on kosher species as well.

There was one place that had interesting recipes that looked possible for us non-professional type's, but it is likely to fit in any recipe for tilapia. For what is is worth, notes that it can be, "steamed, fried, broiled, microwaved, and baked".

If you buy it whole, note that yield is rather low (about 30-35% of the whole fish can turn into edible dinner). For more details on the texture, taste, and nutritional values for John Dory, click here.

New Regular Feature on Kosher Fish Destination!!!

We here at Kosher Fish Destination have heard you, and we intend on updating regularly with a "Species Focus" on particular species of kosher repute. Feel free to e-mail me with your suggestions and requests, as well as any other thoughts about Kosher Fish Destination (especially if you enjoy the site or benefit from it). We love hearing from you!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Truth about red salmon

Last week's HaModia featured part 1 of an article written by Yissachar Brody and myself addressing objections raised by other kashrus organizations about the soundness of saying that any fish which looks like a salmon is a salmon. While I am reticent to accept the idea that all red-fleshed fish are kosher, I personally think it is correct to say that there is no fish which one can practically substitute for salmon. The unedited version of the article (part 2 included) will eventually appear at A copy can be e-mailed to you upon request.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rabbi Chaim Goldberg at!!

Yes, my latest HaModia article appears ask an Askmoses question about how one can tell if a fish is kosher. Today Askmoses, tomorrow the world...

Friday, July 28, 2006

A hair-raising experience: Inviting Rabbi Goldberg to speak about fish?

If anyone is interested in inviting me to speak on the topic of kosher fish (and to demonstrate how to check a fish for kosher simanim), or on any other topic on kashrus, drop me an e-mail. There is no charge for the service, though travel expenses are not necessarily included (hey, I can't exactly walk to Saskatchewan).

So far I've been invited to (all in Brooklyn, NY):

Stoliner High School

Nefesh Academy

Sinai Academy

Yeshiva/Kollel Ruach HaTorah

Evening Program at Agudath Yisroel Beis Binyomin

Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem (MTJ)

Schools are obviously an option, though shuls and learning groups are great places to demonstrate on fish as well. The program is fun, entertaining and well received. Hope to see you!

Oh, bring clips for your yarmulkes. Or a really big hat...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rabbi Goldberg speaking live tonight!

Reports of Rabbi Goldberg speaking tonight at Agudath Yisroel Beis Binyomin have been confirmed. That's right all my loyal fans (and you know who you are), are welcome to a public viewing of my speaking/demonstating abilities. The topic (of course) is kosher fish.

Come one, come all 9:30 Maariv, 9:50 Speech. Corner Nostrand and Ave L.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Live Fishcam Link!

Now you too can enjoy some quality time in front of a fishtank which you do not need to care for, thanks to "Jason's Fishtank", the only streaming "fishcam" that I could locate.

Extra credit for anyone that can identify if any of the fish are kosher (hint: note the fish by name, where discriptions of species are given).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

An Analysis of Kaskeses Part 2

An Analysis of Kaskeses – past and present Rabbi C. Goldberg HaModia, May 17, 2006

In part one of this article, which appeared in the March 22nd edition of HaModia, we discussed what the requirements are for fish to be kosher (i.e. that the fish needs to have “kaskeses” and what is a “kaskeses”), as well as some of the common mistakes made in trying to determine which fish would qualify as kosher. In this article, we will discuss two practical methods to determine if a fish is kosher.

The easiest way to determine if a fish is kosher, is by manually checking the fish for scales[1]. Simply locate a scale on the side of the fish (preferably behind the gills, tail or fin – as mentioned by the Rama as a chumra to guarantee the scale did not fall off of another fish), grab it between your thumb and forefinger, and gently attempt to pull it out. One should note that scales are always attached to the fish on the side closer to the head. The reason is fairly obvious if you can imagine how a fish swims. If the scale would be attached to the skin at the side closest to the tail, the current would pull the scale away from the skin and would inevitably rip it off as the fish swims. Imagine an open umbrella in a brisk wind that is not pointed in the direction of the blowing wind. The umbrella would get caught in the wind and blow inside out. So too, the current would get caught under an inverted scale and rip it off, causing the fish to die due to infection.

After removing the scale, simply inspect the area where the scale came from and check if there is a rip in the skin. If the skin seems fairly undamaged, the fish is kosher. If the scale will not come out without the skin ripping, the scale is not a “kaskeses”. Generally speaking, it is fairly obvious if the skin ripped. As a practical way to get a sense of what skin normally looks like when a “kaskeses” is removed (and the skin does not rip) one could inspect the scaleless skin of fish which one knows to be kosher.

As long as a fish has “kaskeses” at some point in it’s lifecycle it is permitted and there is no requirement of “mesorah” (i.e. a tradition that identifies a particular fish as a kosher species). Fish that lose their scales often have a single scale in the three areas mentioned earlier (behind the gills, tail and fin), though even without a scale present one could still recognize a kosher species of fish based on its skin. The Darchei Teshuva describes the possibility of determining the kosher status of a scaleless fish based on “mesorah”. The “mesorah method” is derived from an idea mentioned in our previous article article, namely that the Gemara tells us that a fish that has not yet grown “kaskeses” or lost its “kaskeskes” is still a kosher specie. One should ask, even if theoretically true, how could one practically determine that the fish is kosher if there are no “kaskeses” on it now? The answer, says the Darchei Teshuva, is that one can recognize the specie based on its skin. There is no mention of someone with a “tvias ayin” on the flesh of a fish, which must be regarded as “kirvei dagim”[2] and is forbidden.

Therefore, one may bring a fish whose “kaskeses” fell off or did not yet grow “kaskeses” but whose skin is still attached to someone familiar with the specific fish to determine if this is a species that is subject to a mesorah of being a kosher fish. This “mesorah method” of determining kosher status is particularly useful when dealing with various types of mackerel. Mackerels tend to lose their scales when removed from the water, and the mesorah method can be used to permit the scaleless mackerel. Generally, this mesorah method does not apply to fish whose skin is removed.[3]

It is essential to note that the person ruling on the fish must be both “halachicly” reliable and familiar with the issue at hand (in our case, the specific type of fish). A typical worker at a fish store is not qualified to confirm the kosher status of the fish.[4]

Some have asked how big a piece of skin must be left on the fish for one to determine its status based on the “mesorah method”. Though I have not seen a specific size given, clearly the piece of skin must be big enough for someone to actually be able to say what species it is. A few weeks ago, I received an inquiry from a small hashgacha organization, that wanted to know how they could accept as kosher fish whose skin had been completely removed except for a small (scaleless) patch, when their mashgiach could not properly identify the fish. I answered that they could not. The only way to accept the fish is by having someone familiar with the specie accept the delivery, and a mashgiach who is not familiar with the specific fish is not qualified to accept such fish. Consider the following mashal (parable). Suppose a person, r”l, is blind. Halachicly, the person is “ne’eman” to testify in Beis Din. One would not, however, ask the person to confirm which of two identical pieces of meat has a hashgacha printed on the package. Here too, a person who does not have mesorah on the particular fish in question may not be relied upon to confirm the kosher status of the fish by a patch of skin. Such a person could only attempt to remove a scale from the fish, as described above.

Some hashgacha organizations allow for salmon to be accepted without skin at all. The justification behind this policy is that there are no known fish whose flesh resembles the red/pink of a salmon, making the flesh color a “siman muvhak” (an absolute indentifier of the fish, which would pre-empt the requirement of checking for scales). Again, this heter would only apply to a case where the mashgiach accepting the fish knows what a salmon is supposed to look like.

Many of us are “zoche” to live in areas where we don’t much think about which fish are kosher or not, as we could not imagine the local “heimish” supermarket selling a non-kosher species. Some of us live in parts of the world where kosher meat is difficult to acquire, and buying fish from the local store is the easiest way to properly feed our families. Though it may seem odd at first, people living neighborhoods which do not have kosher fish stores have at least one advantage over their brethren living in neighborhoods that do. They have the chance to teach themselves and their children how to determine if a fish is kosher, often having no other option. It would be unfortunate if those of us who can easily acquire a kosher fish would lose out on the opportunity to know how to be “mavchin bein hatamei u’bein hatahor”, to be able to distinguish between the pure and the impure.

Rabbi Goldberg has been working as a Rabbinic Coordinator in the Orthodox Union for four years, specializing in kosher fish. He has spoken at various school groups and professional conferences. If you would like to arrange for him to make a free kosher fish demonstration for your shul,school or learning group anywhere in the US or Canada, please feel free to contact the Orthodox Union at 212-613-8340.

[1] As discussed in the first part of this column, from the March 22 edition, there is no practical requirement of checking for fins.
[2] See Y.D. 83:7. This is the term given to skinless fish innards, which aren’t kosher unless prepared under hashgachah.
[3] Some species, however, can be identified as kosher even after the skin is removed. A common example of such fish is salmon.
[4] The rules of “mirsas” and “aman lo mareh umnaso” likely do not apply in the typical consumer situation, where the persons serving the consumer have neither fear of making a mistake, nor negative ramifications by implying that a specific fish is kosher. The FDA (see FDA Consumer Magazine September 1993) also recognizes the prevalence of misidentification of species in the fish industry. Therefore, one should not readily rely on a storekeeper to identify the species of fish.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Recipe: Olive Oil-Poached Fish With Chunky Mashed Potatoes

Reviewer used salmon when preparing this one, which is my favorite as well. Menu suggestions can be found on this link, I'm just sending the recipe. Horseradish sauce can be bough redi-made, or by mixing chopped horseradish with mayo. Milk is for the potatoes, which I make parve with margarine, and fried garlic.

4 fish fillets, such as salmon, halibut or sea bass, about 1 lb (total).
2 cups olive oil, or broth if you prefer
3 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic, halved
1 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper
4 large red potatoes, peeled, cut in chunks
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup milk

Prepared horseradish sauce
Chopped thyme or other herbs, such as tarragon, cilantro or mint

Place fish in a Dutch oven in a single layer; pour oil over fish just to cover. Add thyme and garlic. Heat over medium heat to a low simmer, about 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Reduce heat to low. Gently poach fish until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove with slotted spatula to a platter. Season with teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste; keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes; cook until tender, 15 minutes. Drain; mash coarsely. Mash in butter until melted. Stir in milk until almost smooth. Season with remaining teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste. Divide potatoes among 4 plates. Top with fish. Drizzle horseradish sauce over fish. Garnish with parsley or other herbs.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Recipe: Maple-Soy Salmon

Easy to put together, you will enjoy it!

1 pound salmon fillet, skinned and boned
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Dash of nutmeg
Place salmon in an oven-proof casserole. Mix together the lemon juice, maple syrup, and soy sauce and pour over the fish. Sprinkle lightly with the nutmeg. Let marinate for about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes.

Makes four servings.

  • The marinade ingredients should glaze, not soak, the salmon.
  • Nutmeg is a very powerful spice, so sprinkle lightly.
  • Use quality soy sauce and maple syrup; it really makes a difference.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Recipe: Grilled Salmon Packets with Gingered Slaw

Borrowed recipe, though it looks pretty good. Any substitution ideas for Pesach???

2 cups cooked rice
4 5- to 6-ounce salmon fillets
Gingered slaw:
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, optional

Prepare a very hot fire in your grill. You'll want the temperature to be as close to 450 degrees as you can get it.
To make the gingered slaw: In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, green onions, vegetable oil, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, and sesame seeds, if using.
Take 4 18- by 18-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, lay each sheet of foil on flat surface, and place 1/2 cup of cooked rice in the middle. Divide the cabbage mixture among the packets, topping the rice with it. Place the salmon fillets on top of the slaw. Wrap and seal the foil to form 4 packets.
Grill, seam side down, for 14 to 16 minutes. Do not turn. To serve, place a packet on each plate, let cool slightly, then open. Transfer the contents to 4 plates

Monday, March 27, 2006

Contact me!

My contact e-mail is a fresh account:

Feel free to e-mail about anything appropriate, especially thoughts about the blog!
An Analysis of Kaskeses – past and present
Rabbi C. Goldberg
HaModia, March 22, 2006

(Caption: Checking the scales of a Burbot [Amia Calva])

Consumers are becoming more health conscious. Fish is often considered a healthier option compared to meat. We are all familiar with certain fish like salmon and tuna. Yet, some may want to broaden their culinary experiences and try some more exotic varieties of fish. The question then becomes, what fish are kosher? This article will illustrate that it may not always be so simple to answer this question.

The Pasuk in Vayikra 11:9 describes a kosher fish as one that has “snapir v’kaskeses”, which is generally translated as fins and scales. From the Pasuk alone, one might think that a fish needs to have both simanim in order to be kosher. However, the Mishnah in Niddah 59A (expounded in Chullin 66B) tells us, “kol sheyesh bo kaskeses yesh bo snapir”, that any fish which has “kaskeses” will automatically possess “snapir”. Accordingly, in order to determine the kashrus of the fish, it would not be necessary to look at whether a fish has snapir. Instead, we simply need to confirm that it has “kaskeses”. The question remains, however, what exactly is “kaskeses”?

The Gemara discusses the definitions of “snapir” and “kaskeses”, and concludes that “snapir” refers to a fin that assists a fish in swimming, and that “kaskeses” refers to those finger-nail like protrusions on the side of a fish. The Gemara asks (in light of the knowledge that every fish possessing “kaskeses” automatically has “snapir”) what the was need for the pasuk to mention “snapir”. The Gemara responds, “Yagdil Torah V’Yadir”, that the pasuk mentions “snapir” in order to “make great” and “aggrandize” the Torah.

So, what exactly is “kaskeses”? Though it is often translated as “scales”, not all scales are included in the term “kaskeses”. The Ramban in Chumash tells us that a “kaskeses” must be able to be removed from the fish either by hand or with a knife, without ripping the underlying skin. Practically speaking, if the scale underneath the skin would rip upon removing the scale, the fish could have “fins and scales”, but not have “snapir v’kaskeses”, and it would not be kosher. The Ramban’s requirement is discussed in the Achronim[1], but is universally accepted as the halacha (see glosses of the Ramah on Y.D. 83 in the name of Maggid Mishnah).

The Poskim do not require that a kaskeses must have a particular shape, color or texture. Any scale that can be removed without ripping skin would qualify as a “kaskeses”. The only limit discussed is the size of a scale, namely that it must be large enough to be viewed by the naked eye. Both the Aruch HaShulchan and the Tiferes Yisroel mention that the kaskeses must be perceivable by the naked eye from a normal distance in order to be halachicly significant. A single “kaskeses” anywhere on the fish, appearing at any point during its lifetime is sufficient for it to be kosher. Even if the “kaskeses” fell off before the fish was caught or if the fish had yet to grow a “kaskeses” (but is of a species known to grow “kaskeses” later in life), the fish is still kosher.[2]

Applying the definition of kaskeses to the various species of fish is not always simple. Some claim that one can look at the scientific classifications of scales in order to determine whether the scale qualifies as a kaskeses. Scientifically, there are five different types of scales: placoid, cosmoid, gadoid, ctenoid and cycloid. Placoid scales are found on many different types of sharks (sharks do have scales, though they rip the skin when removed and thus cannot be considered “kaskeses”), cosmoid are found on lungfish, gadoid are found on sturgeon, gars and bowfin. These three types of scales are rarely found on kosher fish, though I mentioned bowfin (Amia Calva) as at least one example of a kosher fish with gadoid scales. The other two types, cycloid and ctenoid scales, are the ones found on most kosher fish. The scale classifications are based on varying factors, such as the make up of the scale, its relationship to other scales on a fish, and the structure of the growth rings on the edge of a scale (experts can determine how old a fish is by counting rings on its scales, much as they would rings on a tree).

Some Rabbis have postulated that any fish bearing cycloid or ctenoid scales is a kosher fish. There are several reasons why one should disagree with this assertion. One reason is that some cycloid scales are not visible to the naked eye. For example a type of sand-eel (Ammodytes Americanus) is described as having cycloid scales. The author of this article showed the fish to various persons at a major kashrus agency, and no one there was able to see anything on the fish that was large enough to consider it as having “kaskeses”. Another reason why defining the type of scale is not sufficient to know if it is kosher, is that some fish have embedded scales. American Eel (Anguilla Anguilla) is known to have scales that could be “kosher” if not for the fact that they are deeply embedded into the skin. The same is true for burbot (Lota Lota). There is nothing intrinsic to the definition of any type of scale that requires it be able to be removed from the fish without ripping the skin, as is required for “kaskeses”. Therefore, looking at the scientific category of a scale is insufficient for purposes of identifying kosher fish.

Can a kosher fish list be constructed for the benefit of consumers? While kashrus agencies have compiled lists, many agencies no longer do that. Lists, however, are not a viable solution. The same common name can be used to refer to a myriad of different fish, some kosher and some not. Not all “cods” are kosher; the non-kosher burbot mentioned above is classified as a “gadidae”, technically making it a cod. Other examples include “torsk”, which can refer to both a kosher and a non-kosher fish, “escolar”(oil-fish) which also refers to multiple specimens of varying kosher status, and turbot where some are kosher and some not.

The Kaf HaChaim also sees common names as inaccurate. In his Sefer (Yoreh Deah 83:5), he notes that discrepancies between different Talmudic accounts of the “shibbuta” must lead one to conclude that there were multiple fish called “shibuta” in the times of Chazal.

To summarize, fish that have a kaskeses are kosher. The definition of kaskeses is unique to kashrus, and scientific classifications of scales are not halachicly determinative. A article describing practical applications will be IY”H forthcoming.

[1] See Shu”t Nodeh B’Yehuda Tinyana 26-29 where he discusses the possibility of soaking a fish in “mai afar” in order for the scales to be removed without ripping skin. See Pischei Teshuva S”K 1 who explains why this opinion is not accepted l’halachah.
[2] See Y.D. 83:1 and Ramah there who recommends one be machmir and require at least one “kaskeses” appear in one of three specific places on the fish – by the gills, tail or fin – based on a Tosefta.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Rabbi Goldberg presenting at Feb. 2006 Mesorah Conference

(Caption)"Scaling the Heights: Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, OU Rabbinic Coordinator, who presented An Analysis of Kaskeses (scales) – Past and Present, demonstrates not only scales, but the fish upon which the scales reside. "

This is me holding a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) for the camera while demonstrating how to find kaskeses on different fish. We are on a porch at Lander College in Queens, because I did not properly refrigerate my samples and they stunk by the time we got there. After my presentation, listeners were invited to chase me outside and see how to check a fish for kaskeses. The procedure is quite simple, and means the ability to purchase probably the most easily acquired kosher protein on the planet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An Analysis of Kaskeses - Part 1

In February, the OU asked me to speak on the topic of Kaskeses. The article here (Ed: see post above) was based on my notes from that speech. Part 2 will be published in HaModia after Passover.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The myth of Kosher Fish Lists...

Many of you are interested in new and exciting varieties of kosher fish. The truth is, there is almost nothing stopping you from buying fish (so long as you know how to buy in a non-kosher store), anywhere and everywhere.

The problems arise when someone does not know how to check the kosher status of the fish themselves.

What is the problem exactly? Well, the first thing is that one cannot rely on fish lists. Why not? Several reasons come to mind, including the fact that there is little way of knowing whether the fish you are buying in fact is the one the seller claims it is. Another is that most fish sold without skin are forbidden (see Y.D. 83).

Checking the kosher status of fish yourself is not difficult at all. Simply locate the scale, remove it, and confirm that the skin did not rip as a result of the removal. More on the practicals of the procedure if anyone is intersted!!

"Sea"son's greetings!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Welcome to Kosher Fish Destination!!

Dear Readers,


I'm new to the world of blogging, and your help/advise is appreciated.

For now, just know that on this blog we hope to provide the following:

1. Accurate, useful information about the purchasing of kosher fish
2. Articles, published by reputable sources on this subject
3. Answers to kashrus questions about fish and fish issues.

Thanks for reading,

Chaim Goldberg