Halacha » Q&A about Sushi

Q&A about Sushi


1. Is Sushi with imitation crab and the like permitted to be eaten?


The Gemara says (חולין קט,ב) that anything that the Torah prohibited, it found something with the same taste which is permitted. For example, the Torah prohibited drinking blood but permitted liver which has the taste of blood. Another example is that the Torah prohibited eating pork but permitted the brain of a fish called Shabuta which has the same taste as the pork.

Accordingly, this imitation crab would be permitted, and this is how the Chida (בפתח עיניים חולין) writes. Conversely, Rav Elyashiv felt that only that which was naturally created can be permitted, but not something that was man-made to imitate the forbidden food. However, it is possible that in this case even Rav Elyashiv would be lenient since this food is natural.

There is still a question of Mar’it Ayin, meaning one isn’t allowed to look as if he’s sinning. But in the case of Sushi, since it’s common knowledge that imitation crab exists, no one will suspect the person to be eating real crabs (שבט הלוי ח״ט סי’ קנז ועוד הרבה).

One might feel maybe it’s correct to refrain from such things regardless, since we’re supposed to feel disgusted from this kind of food, but Chazal teach otherwise:

ר’ אלעזר בן עזריה אומר מנין שלא יאמר אדם “אי אפשי ללבוש שעטנז. אי אפשי לאכול בשר חזיר. אי אפשי לבוא על הערוה” אבל “אפשי ומה אעשה ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי כך”.

Meaning that the right approach is that one shouldn’t say that he doesn’t wasn’t to eat pig meat, rather he should say that he would love to eat it but he only refrains because the Torah forbids it.


2. If one is away from home on vacation, can one buy Sushi with only vegetables? Does a simple rice and vegetable roll also require Hashgacha?

It Absolutely needs Hashgacha.

Any type of Sushi requires a valid Hashgacha for several reasons.

Since rice is a food item that has both conditions: a) is not edible raw and b) is served on a king’s table, therefore it must be prepared with accordance of the Halachot of Bishul Yisrael, cooked by a Jew.

Secondly, the rice is made with oil which can be not Kosher. It is also possible that some other ingredients were added to it that aren’t kosher.

Due to the above, Bishul Akum and non-kosher ingredients being used, the rice cooker itself is treif, and thus one isn’t allowed to eat whatever was cooked in it.

Furthermore, the knife used to cut the vegetables and Sushi rolls is very likely to retain some residue from the non-Kosher fish and other things that were cut prior to preparing this Sushi.

The seaweed should have a hechsher as explained in the Dvar Halacha.


3. Since today it’s very common to eat raw fish in Sushi, are we still required to make sure fish is cooked by a Jew to avoid Bishul-Akum?


Food that is mostly served cooked (like meat, chicken, or the rice we dealt with before), may not be cooked by a Goy. Throughout history fish was always in that category. With the recent advent of raw fish being a very popular part of Sushi, the question arises as to whether that would suffice to render it edible raw and thus not be restricted by the laws of Bishul Akum. The answer to that however is, since eating fish raw is still not the most common way to eat fish, it must therefore still be cooked by a Jew. (אבני ישפה )


4. If one travels to China where most people eat the fish raw, would one be permitted to eat a fish cooked by a Goi?


This question was presented to Rabbi Shmuel Vozner (שבט הלוי ח״ט סי’ קסג) and he wrote that the Halachic requirement for majority of people eating something raw isn’t categorized by individual places like China, but we look and see what most people around the globe do, which therefore reverts back to the previous conclusion that since worldwide, fish is generally not consumed raw, it still has to conform to the parameters of Bishul Akum.