A Gentle Reminder

“Excuse me,” I politely said.
<Man behind deli counter ignores me.>
“Sorry, Sir…”
<Man behind deli counter ignores me.>
“Excuse me, SIR?!”
<Man behind deli counter looks up at me.>
“Hi. Do you know what kind of fish is in the whitefish salad?” I ask, nodding my head to the golden, smoked whole fish just below him.
“Sorry, what KIND of fish is in the whitefish salad.”
“White. Fish,” he explains, as if I’m the asshole here.
“What KIND of WHITE fish?” thinking I couldn’t possibly ask this question more specifically.
“I don’t know.”

While it seems there might be a few definitions for whitefish (according to Wikipedia), I’m still fairly uncertain what the typical smoked whitefish salad is made from. But what I did find particularly interesting in this salad from Lenny’s Deli was the texture. The fish wasn’t pulverized, like most fish salads. This fish stayed intact, allowing cream cheese to keep together big flakes of fish. It was a gentle, but probably unintended, reminder that we’re eating an animal.

More on Smoked Whitefish Salad
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  • Lyric April 5, 2011  

    Sounds like cod. Cod is a bit meatier than say trout or flounder, for example, which tend to be light and flaky.

  • Alex April 5, 2011  

    Wikipedia is right — “whitefish” is a type of fish. Just like bluefish. Whitefish salad is traditionally made from, you guessed it, whitefish.

    You can buy some whitefish here:

    and corroborate my claims here:

    It’s definitely not cod.

  • Adin April 5, 2011  

    Just to back up Alex, “Whitefish” is the type of fish. In fact, at most Jewish delis, you can buy a whole smoked whitefish (or a part of one), which is delicious when flaked and put atop a bagel with cream cheese as an alternative to lox. Sable is also another popular smoked fish found in Jewish delis, and can be used in the same way.

  • EvoDiva April 5, 2011  

    I think the appropriate question you were looking for was, “Excuse me sir, what SPECIES is this whitefish?” Then he could have answered, “I have no effing clue,” much sooner. When commenters say that “whitefish is a type of fish” they actually mean (whether they know it or not) that “whitefish is the COMMON NAME for many different SPECIES of fish”. Fishbase.org is a resource I use for my research and it may help (or more greatly confound?) this debate. End geek sesh.

    Yummmm….this gentile has a potentially unhealthy obsession with whitefish. Where can a girl get some good whitefish in DC?

  • Alex April 5, 2011  

    The confusion stems from the phrase “white fish” referring to a broad category encompassing many different species of fish, among them a few very similar species of fish called “whitefish”.

    Whitefish salad is made from one of these whitefish species, not from some other species in the umbrella category “white fish”, which includes things like flounder and haddock and cod and all sorts of stuff.

    Sure, just like salmon (atlantic, pacific) and trout (rainbow, brown, brook, etc) and tuna (blackfin, yellowfin, bluefin, etc), there are different species of whitefish, but they are similar enough that I don’t think you can really tell the difference once it’s smoked and and mashed into a salad. Would I know whether it was bluefin or yellowfin or blackfin in my tuna salad? I wouldn’t, but maybe other people could.

    As far as whitefish salad in DC goes, they do a good one (and sell whole smoked whitefish at exorbitant prices) at the Calvert-Woodley deli counter. H&H bagels, too.

  • Dad gansie April 5, 2011  

    Wow a lot of info about whitefish and other fishes from the very informative comments however, evo diva liking yours the best ; reminds me more of what gansie would reply

  • liz January 15, 2012  

    “whitefish” is a species of fish found in the great lakes; hard to imagine white’s delicatessen (no relation) in brockton mass went all the way to the great lakes for their fish. but boy did it taste great!

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