Surimi is a much-enjoyed food product in many Asian cultures and is available in many shapes, forms, and textures. The most common surimi product in the Western market is imitation or artificial crab legs. Such a product is often sold as sea legs and krab in America, or seafood sticks, crab sticks and fish sticks in the UK, or seafood extender in Australia.
Under most circumstances, surimi is immediately processed, formed and cured into surimi products at the time it is produced.
In North America and Europe, surimi also alludes to fish-based products manufactured using this process. A generic term for fish-based surimi in Japanese is "fish-puréed products" (魚肉練り製品 gyoniku neri seihin).
This is an incomplete list of fish used to make surimi:
Beef surimi can also be shaped into ball form to make "beef balls" (牛肉丸). When beef surimi is mixed with chopped beef tendons and formed into balls, "beef tendon balls"(牛筋丸) are produced. Both of these products are commonly used in Chinese hot pot as well as served in Vietnamese "phở".
The surimi process is also used in the making of turkey products. It is employed in making products such as turkey burgers, turkey sausage, turkey pastrami, turkey franks, turkey loafs and turkey salami.
Surimi is a useful ingredient for producing various kinds of processed foods. Furthermore, it allows a manufacturer to imitate the texture and taste of a more expensive product such as lobster tail using a relatively low-cost material. Surimi is also an inexpensive source of protein.
In Asian cultures, surimi is eaten as a food product in its own right and is seldom used to imitate other foods. In Japan fish cakes (Kamaboko) and fish sausages, as well as other extruded fish products are commonly sold as cured surimi. In Chinese cuisine, fish surimi, often called "fish paste," is used directly as stuffing or made into balls. In addition, balls made from lean beef (牛肉丸, lit. "beef ball") and pork surimi are often seen in Chinese cuisine. Fried, steamed, and boiled surimi products are also commonly found in Southeast Asian cuisine.
In the West, surimi products are usually imitation seafood products, such as crab, abalone, shrimp and scallop. However, several companies do produce surimi sausages, lunchmeats, hams, and burgers. Some examples include: Salmolux salmon burgers, Seapack surimi ham, SeaPack surimi salami, and Seapack surimi rolls. A patent was issued for the process of making even higher quality proteins from fish such as in the making of imitation steak from surimi. Surimi is also used to manufacture kosher imitation shrimp and crabmeat, using only kosher fish such as pollock.
Certain kinds of fish, such as the Pacific whiting, cannot form firm surimi. The surimi maker has to add egg white or potato starch into the fish paste to increase its strength. Before the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), it was industrial practice to add bovine blood plasma into the fish paste to help its curing or gel-forming. Today some manufacturers may use a transglutaminase to improve its texture.