Gefilte fish (/ɡəˈfɪltə fɪʃ/; from Yiddish: געפֿילטע
פֿיש and originally from Dutch: gevulde vis, "stuffed fish") is
a dish made from a poached mixture of ground deboned fish, such as
carp, whitefish, or pike. It is traditionally served as an appetizer
by Ashkenazi Jewish households. Although it historically consisted of
a minced-fish forcemeat stuffed inside the fish skin, this step has
been commonly omitted since the 19th century and the seasoned fish is
instead formed into patties similar to quenelles or fish balls. These
are popular on
Jewish Holidays such as Passover, although
they may be consumed throughout the year.
In Poland, gefilte fish, referred to as karp po żydowsku ("carp
Jewish-style"), is a traditional dish in some Polish homes (more
commonly in the northern regions near the Baltic Sea), served on
Christmas Eve (for Twelve-dish supper) and on Holy Saturday.
1 Preparation and serving
5 See also
7 External links
Preparation and serving
Gefilte fish: whole stuffed and garnished fish
Traditionally, carp, pike, mullet, or whitefish were used to make
gefilte fish, but more recently other fish with white flesh such as
Nile perch have been used, and there is a pink variation using salmon.
There are even vegetarian variations.
Fish fillets are ground with eggs, onion, bread or matzo crumbs, and
spices to produce a paste or dough which is then boiled in fish
Traditionally gefilte fish is cooked and served as egg-shaped patties,
like quenelles, but sometimes it is cooked in large logs or blocks and
then sliced for serving. It is usually served cold or at room
temperature. Each piece may be topped with a slice of carrot, with a
horseradish mixture called khreyn on the side.
Due to the previous general poverty of the Jewish population in Europe
and especially Eastern Europe, where the dish originated, an
economical recipe for the above also may have included finely ground
and soaked matzo meal or bread crumbs. This form of preparation
eliminated the need for picking out fish bones at the table, and
"stretched" the (expensive) fish further, so that even poor, large
families could enjoy fish on Shabbat. Not only is picking bones
religiously prohibited on the Sabbath, but many of the common fish
used in the dish, such as carp, are exceptionally bony and difficult
to eat in whole form. The fish bones can then be used in making fish
In Polish Catholic homes, gefilte fish (Polish: karp po żydowsku) is
a traditional dish to be eaten on
Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday, as
these are traditionally meatless feasts. This follows a pattern in
which a number of Jewish dishes were also eaten on Catholic religious
days in Poland.
Gefilte fish may be slightly sweet or savory. Preparation of gefilte
fish with sugar or black pepper is considered an indicator of whether
a Jewish community was
Galitzianer (with sugar) or Litvak (with
pepper); the boundary separating northern from southern East Yiddish
has thus been dubbed "the Gefilte Fish Line".
Jars of gefilte fish in Israel
The post-WWII method of making gefilte fish commercially takes the
form of patties or balls, or utilizes a wax paper casing around a
"log" of ground fish, which is then poached or baked. This product is
sold in cans and glass jars, and packed in jelly made from fish broth.
The sodium content is relatively high at 220–290 mg/serving.
Low-salt, low-carbohydrate, low-cholesterol, sugar-free, and kosher
varieties are available. The patent (US 3108882 "Method for
Preparing an Edible Fish Product") for this jelly, which allowed
mass-market distribution of gefilte fish, was granted on October 29,
Monroe Nash and Erich G. Freudenstein.
Gefilte fish are
also sold frozen in "logs".
Among religiously observant Jews, gefilte fish has become a
Shabbat food to avoid borer, which is one of the 39
activities prohibited on
Shabbat outlined in the Shulchan Aruch.
Borer, literally "selection/choosing", would occur when one picks the
bones out of the fish, taking "the chaff from within the food".
A less common belief is that fish are not subject to ayin hara ("evil
eye") because they are submerged while alive, so that a dish prepared
from several fish varieties brings good luck.
Fish is pareve, neither meat nor dairy, and, according to kosher law,
it may be eaten at both meat and dairy meals, although according to
halakha law, fish and meat should not be eaten together.
^ Jochnowitz, Eve (1998), "Chapter 4: Flavors of Memory: Jewish Food
as Culinary Tourism in Poland", in Long, Lucy M., Culinary Tourism,
University Press of Kentucky, pp. 97–113
In the public imagination of both Americans and Poles, it is
frequently gefilte fish-particularly sweetened gefilte fish-that has
outdistanced matzoh as the food that first comes to mind when Jewish
food is discussed (Cooper 1993; dc Pomianc 1985).
Gefilte fish is
sometimes referred to as karp po żydowsku or "Jewish carp," ... Many
restaurants in Cracow and Warsaw that are in no other way marked as
Jewish offer karp po żydowsku as either an appetizer or a main
course. Stranger still, karp po żydowsku has become a traditional
dish in many Catholic Polish homes for
Christmas Eve and Holy
Saturday, traditionally meatless feasts. (p. 109)
^ Gefilte "Fish," Vegetarian Accessed November 10, 2010
^ Попова, М. Ф., Секреты Одесской кухни,
Друк, Одесса, 2004, p.163 (Russian) Popova M.F., Secrets of
Odessa Cuisine. Druk, Odessa, 2004, p.163
^ a b Johnowitz, Eva. Chapter 4, "Flavors of Memory", in Culinary
Tourism, Lucy M. Long (ed.) University Press of Kentucky, 2013.
^ Bill Gladstone: This is no fish tale: Gefilte tastes tell story of
ancestry. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, September 10, 1999. Accessed
November 10, 2010
^ Method of Preparing an Edible Fish Product. Accessed November 10,
^ Rabbi Zushe Blech: "The Fortunes of a Fish", Kashrut.com website.
Accessed March 30, 2006.
^ Gil Marks: "Something's fishy in the State of Israel" Archived
2006-03-29 at the Wayback Machine.,
Orthodox Union website. Accessed
March 30, 2006.
^ Aryeh Lebowitz (June 19, 2009). "Eating Fish and Meat Together".
Yeshiva University. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
Media related to
Gefilte fish at Wikimedia Commons
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett: "Food and Drink". In: The YIVO
Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Yale University Press, New
Haven 2008, p. 534, ISBN 978-0-300-11903-9.
Tamara Mann: "Gefilte Fish in America. A history of the Jewish fish
Claudia Roden: "Gefilte Fish and the Jews". Jewish Heritage Online
Haym Soloveitchik: "Rupture and Reconstruction. The Transformation of
Contemporary Orthodoxy". In: Tradition, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 1994).
Torah reading (Weekly Torah portion
Shnayim mikra ve-echad targum)
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Chai Nosei Et Atzmo
Shabbat pedestrian crossing
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