"Surimi" (Japanese: , lit. "ground meat", also called kani; zh-cpl|c=|p=yú jiāng|l=fish puree/slurry) 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. [ [ The Making of Surimi] (illustrated, in Japanese)] [ [ The Evolution of the Surimi-Making Process (1961/1970/current)] (in Japanese)]

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":

*Milkfish (" [ Chanos chanos] ")
*Swordfish (" [ Xiphias gladius] ")
**(" [ Oreochromis mossambicus] ")
**(" [ Oreochromis niloticus niloticus] ")
*Big-head pennah croaker (" [ Pennahia macrocephalus] ")
*Golden threadfin bream (" [ Nemipterus virgatus] ")
*Cod (" [ Gadus morhua] ")
*Bigeyes (" [ Priacanthus arenatus] ")
*Pacific whiting (" [ Merluccius productus] ")
*Alaska pollock (" [ Theragra chalcogramma] ")
*Various shark species

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

* Chikuwa
* Crab stick
* Fish ball
* Hanpen
* Kamaboko
* Tsukune
* Tsumire
* Yong tau foo


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. [ [ Thermally-induced interactions in fish muscle proteins (Why does surimi form a gel?)] ] 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.


External links

* [ Oregon State University Surimi Technology School]
* [ Surimi and Surimi Seafood, Second Edition, published in March 2005]
* [ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 16-1]
* [ Pacific Marine Food Products Co., Ltd. Nutrition Fact of Surimi]

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