I attend a lot of business functions where they serve sushi and caviar. I try to eat only kosher food. What is the story on this?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The Torah (Leviticus 11:9) teaches that a kosher fish must possess both fins and scales. (Fins help the fish swim, and scales cover the body.) Even if the fish has only one scale or one fin, it is permitted. Tuna, for example, has very few scales, yet is kosher. Other popular kosher fish are bass, carp, cod, flounder, halibut, herring, mackerel, trout and salmon.
Crustaceans (e.g. lobster and crab) and other shellfish (e.g. clams) are not kosher, because they lack scales. Further, all mammals (e.g. whales and dolphins) are not kosher.
There are kosher varieties of sushi – providing the sushi itself has proper rabbinic supervision. This is necessary because mislabeling is a major issue in the fish business, and you would need to see the whole fish with scales to rely on it.
There are other potential kashrut problems as well: "Unsupervised" seaweed may contain sea creatures and bugs. The sauces, oils and even rice could have any number of issues. The fish and vegetables must be prepared with only kosher utensils (e.g. knife, cutting board, etc.). Especially in today's world of highly processed foods, unsupervised sushi should not be relied upon.
As for caviar, the term typically refers to sturgeon roe, which is not kosher. If you are looking for alternatives to sturgeon roe to serve at a fancy dinner, there are kosher-supervised varieties available.
Even if you feel you are not yet ready to commit to kashrut fully, it is still meritorious to minimize the likelihood, frequency and severity of transgression.
So I should point out that if you consciously avoid the varieties that are certainly forbidden – such as sturgeon caviar, eel and shellfish – and limit yourself to things like tuna and salmon, you are avoiding certain multiple prohibitions, but may still be incurring others.
This is acceptable as a short-term solution, because Judaism is not all-or-nothing. Rather it is a process, a journey, where every step counts.