One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Treif-tasting Fish

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We all get cravings. There’s the usual–chocolate, pizza, Chinese food. The childlike–macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly. The Jewish–pickles, matzah ball soup, deli.

Now you can add yak, blue marlin, and pigeon to that list. Well you could have been eating these all along, but sometimes it takes the help of gourmet kosher dinner to remind you what Jews can and cannot eat, according to dietary laws.

A recent event at LA’s Prime Grill, a high-end kosher restaurant on Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, offered an unusual menu of kosher dishes:

“Kosher law we often view as very restrictive,” said Ari Zivotofsky, a main organizer of the event. “It doesn’t have to be. . . . People should know the Torah doesn’t prohibit these things.”

For example, there are no prohibitions against yak. It was served with a spicy Asian sauce. The 15-course meal also included blue marlin, sparrow and dove in a minestrone soup, crispy pigeon with mango salad, quail and partridge served with Korean-style cucumber, and spice-encrusted grilled elk. (MORE)

A meat-eaters delight.

The two main organizers, experts in ritual slaugter, travel around the world speaking to rabbis and schochtim to collect testimonies as what animals are kosher.

Perhaps one of the most interesting delights served was the shibuta fish:

More than 1,500 years ago, Jewish scholars wrote of the shibuta, an unusual fish found in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of ancient Babylon, modern-day Iraq.

In the Talmud, that encyclopedic compendium of Jewish law and tradition, the shibuta is described as a tasty and popular fish with a distinctive trait — it apparently tastes like pork.

According to kashrut, Jewish dietary laws, it is forbidden to eat pig. A kosher animal must have split hooves and chew its cud. The pig, however, is not a ruminant, and is also viewed as an unclean animal in many faiths.

The significance of the shibuta is the idea that while God forbade certain foods, God also provided kosher equivalents that will evoke a similar taste. Thus a porky fish.

All I know is that next time one of these events happens, someone better give me a call ahead of time.

Posted on August 22, 2007

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