Sorry, But The Crab In Your California Rolls Is Probably Just Fish

Sorry, But The Crab In Your California Rolls Is Probably Just Fish

What's your favorite type of sushi? If you're a maki lover, you might be partial to the California roll. Mmm...the delicious cucumber, avocado, and processed, colored fish paste. That's right: that tender "crab" in your roll is real seafood, but it likely isn't real crab. Instead, it's imitation crab, or "crab stick." In Japanese, crab stick is called "surimi," which means "ground meat." Every time you eat imitation crab, you're actually eating a paste of Alaska pollock, Atlantic cod, Tilapia, or another mild white fish.

If you're wondering how surimi looks so much like the real thing, know that, just like a hot dog, this meat goes through some serious processing. The red stripe comes from a dyeing process, and the flavors themselves are mostly artificial with added sodium and sometimes MSG. Other potential additives include starch, egg whites, and sugar. As the Huffington Post reports, "the meat from real crab boasts more than double the protein and potassium of its imitator with none of the artificial enhancers." There are 16 grams of protein in 3 ounces (85g) of crab, versus 6 grams of protein in the same amount of surimi. Why do restaurants serve it, then?'s cheap. It's also malleable—producers can form the fish paste into almost any shape they desire.

Like hot dogs, however, crab stick is perfectly fine to consume. Just know that you're really getting ground pollock the next time you order a California roll with imitation crab. To learn more about the process of making surimi, as well as other mock foods, watch the following videos.

Unwrapped: Surimi Imitation Crab

Learn more about imitation crab and go behind the scenes in a surimi factory.


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