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Surimi (Japanese: , lit. "ground meat", also called kani; ) is a Japanese loan word referring to a food product intended to mimic lobster, crab, and other shellfish meat. It is typically made from white-fleshed fish, (such as pollock or hake), that has been pulverized to a paste and attains a rubbery texture when cooked. The term is also commonly applied to food products made from lean meat in a similar process.

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.


Lean meat from fish or land animals is first separated or minced. The meat is then rinsed numerous times to eliminate undesirable odors. The result is beaten and pulverized to form a gelatinous paste. Depending on the desired texture and flavour of the surimi product, the gelatinous paste is mixed with differing proportions of additives such as starch, egg white, salt, vegetable oil, humectants, sorbitol, sugar, soy protein, and seasonings. If the surimi is to be packed and frozen, food-grade cryoprotectants also are added while the meat paste is being mixed.

Under most circumstances, surimi is immediately processed, formed and cured into surimi products at the time it is produced.

Fish surimi

The resulting paste, depending on the type of fish and whether it was rinsed in the production process, is typically tasteless and must be flavored. According to the USDA Food Nutrient Database 16-1, fish surimi contains about 76% water, 15% protein, 6.85% carbohydrate, 0.9% fat, and 0.03% cholesterol.

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:

Meat surimi

Although less commonly seen in Japanese and Western markets, pork surimi (肉漿) is a common product found in a wide array of Chinese foods. The process of making pork surimi is similar to making fish surimi except that leaner cuts of meat are used and the rinsing process is omitted. Pork surimi is made into pork balls (Chinese: gòng wán; ) which, when cooked, have a texture similar to fish balls but are much firmer and denser. Pork surimi is also mixed with flour and water to make a type of dumpling wrapper called "yèn pí" ( or ) that has the similar firm and bouncy texture of cooked surimi.

Beef surimi can also be shaped into ball form to make "beef balls" (). When beef surimi is mixed with chopped beef tendons and formed into balls, "beef tendon balls"() 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.

Uses and products

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 (, 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.

List of surimi foods


The process for making surimi was developed in many areas of East Asia over 900 years ago. In Japan, it is used in the making of kamaboko, or cured surimi products. The industrialized surimi-making process was developed in 1960 by Nishitani Yōsuke of Japan's Hokkaidō Fisheries Experiment Institute to process the increased catch of fish, to revitalize Japan's fish industry, and to make use of what previously was considered "fodder fish".

Chemistry of surimi curing

The curing of the fish paste is caused by the polymerization of myosin when heated. The species of fish is the most important factor that affects this curing process. Many pelagic fish with higher fat contents lack that kind of heat-curing myosin, hence they are not suitable for making surimi.

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.


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