Fish play a major role in Jewish cuisine, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, for several reasons, some symbolic and some practical. On the practical side, they can be served with both dairy and meat meals. In any preserved form, they can be served cold, thus making them popular for Sabbath lunch in homes where Sabbath observance includes not cooking.
In "The Book of Jewish Food," pp 105-107, Claudia Roden details how many fish, such as salmon, carp, pike, and halibut, have come to be associated with Jewish cuisine. In addition, Jews were responsible for introducing the concept of frying fish in oil, for example, and were widely known for perfecting methods of preserving fish (salting, smoking, pickling, and the like). "Many of the old recipes for freshwater fish and herring [common among the Jews of Eastern Europe] are now used for saltwater fish like halibut, haddock, cod, plaice, sole, hake, flounder, and salmon. Salmon has become the great Jewish party dish ..."
"Fish is prominent on the holiday table, especially on the New Year and Shavuot. In Jewish lore it is a symbol of fertility, because Jacob gave his children a blessing that they should multiply like fish in the sea. It is also associated with the coming of the Messiah. According to a legend, the Messiah will come in the form of a great fish from the sea.
"Since earliest times, it was the custom among Jews to have fish on Friday night. There are references to that in the Talmud. The rabbis who codified the oral law, known as the Mishnah, ruled that it was meritorius to eat fish at each of the three Sabbath meals. 'Without Fish,' the saying goes, 'there is no Sabbath.'"
In consideration of the prominence of fish in Sabbath and festival celebrations, the recipes in this category include both classically Jewish dishes and various international recipes which might broaden a cook's repertoire.
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