Surimi: Wikis


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A tub of uncured fish surimi ready for finish-processing

Surimi (Japanese: , lit. "ground meat", Chinese: 漿pinyin: yú jiāng; literally "fish puree or slurry") is a Japanese loan word referring to a fish-based food product intended to mimic the texture and color of the meat of lobster, crab and other shellfish. 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 prepared 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 often is sold as sea legs and krab in America, and as seafood sticks, crab sticks, fish sticks or seafood extender in Commonwealth nations.



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. Surimi industrial technology developed by Japan in the early 1960s promoted the growth of the surimi industry. The successful growth of the industry was based on the Alaska pollock (or walleye pollock). Subsequently, production of Alaska pollock surimi declined and was supplemented by surimi production using species other than Alaska pollock.

The industrialized surimi-making process was refined in 1969 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."

Currently, 2-3 million metric tonnes of fish from around the world, amounting to 2-3 percent of the world fisheries supply, are used for the production of surimi and surimi-based products. The United States of America and Japan are major producers of surimi and surimi-based products. Thailand has become an important producer. China’s role as producer is increasing. Many newcomers to the surimi industry have emerged, including Viet Nam, Chile, the Faeroe Islands, France and Malaysia.[1]


Lean meat from fish or land animals first is separated or minced. The meat then is 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, seasonings, and chemical enhancers such as transglutaminases and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

If the surimi is to be packed and frozen, food-grade cryoprotectants are added as preservatives while the meat paste is being mixed.[2][3] Under most circumstances, surimi is processed immediately into a formed and cured product.

Fish surimi

Typically the resulting paste, depending on the type of fish and whether it was rinsed in the production process, is tasteless and must be flavored artificially. 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).

The fish used to make surimi include:

Meat surimi

Although seen less commonly 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 rinsing 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 also is 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 also can be shaped into a 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 commonly are used in Chinese hot pot as well as served in Vietnamese "phở".

The surimi process also is used to make turkey products. It is used to make turkey burgers, turkey sausage, turkey pastrami, turkey franks, turkey loafs and turkey salami.

Uses and products

Foods made from surimi: artificial crab leg meat and shrimp

Surimi is a useful ingredient for producing various kinds of processed foods. 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 an inexpensive source of protein.

In Asian cultures, surimi is eaten as a food in its own right and 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. Balls made from lean beef (, lit. "beef ball") and pork surimi often are seen in Chinese cuisine. Fried, steamed, and boiled surimi products also are found commonly in Southeast Asian cuisine.

In the West, surimi products usually are imitation seafood products, such as crab, abalone, shrimp, calamari, and scallop. Several companies do produce surimi sausages, luncheon meats, hams, and burgers. Some examples include: Salmolux salmon burgers and SeaPak surimi ham,salami, and 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 make kosher imitation shrimp and crabmeat, using only kosher fish such as pollock.

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.[4] Many pelagic fish with higher fat contents lack the needed type kind of heat-curing myosin and are not used for surimi.

Certain kinds of fish, such as the Pacific whiting, cannot form firm surimi without additives such as egg white or potato starch. Before the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), it was an 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 the texture of surimi.

List of surimi foods


  1. ^ "World Surimi Market," by Benoit Vidal-Giraud and Denis Chateau, Globefish Research Programme, Volume 89, April 2007
  2. ^ The Making of Surimi (illustrated, in Japanese)
  3. ^ The Evolution of the Surimi-Making Process (1961/1970/current) (in Japanese)
  4. ^ Thermally-induced interactions in fish muscle proteins (Why does surimi form a gel?)

External links

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