Crab sticks (imitation crab meat, seafood sticks, krab) are a form of kamaboko, a processed seafood made of finely pulverized white fish flesh (surimi), shaped and cured to resemble leg meat of snow crab or Japanese spider crab.
Crab flakes use the same mixture to form flakes instead of sticks to resemble crab meat or lobster meat.
Sugiyo Co., Ltd. (スギヨ Sugiyo?) of Japan first produced and patented imitation crab meat in 1973, as Kanikama. This was a flake type. In 1974,Osaki Suisan Co., Ltd. of Japan first produced and patented imitation crab sticks.
In 1976, The Berelson Company of San Francisco, CA USA, working with Sugiyo, introduced them internationally. Kanikama is still their common name in Japan, but internationally they are marketed under names including Krab Sticks, Ocean Sticks, Sea Legs and Imitation Crab Sticks. Legal restrictions now prevent them from being marketed as "Crab Sticks" in many places, as they usually do not have crab meat.
Alaska pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) from the North Pacific is commonly the main ingredient, often mixed with egg white (albumen) or other binding ingredient, such as the enzyme transglutaminase. Crab flavoring is added (either artificial or crab-derived), and a layer of red food coloring is applied to the outside.
Individual sticks in many forms are colored red or yellowish red on the outside, with a rectangular cross-section or a cross-section fiber showing white inside meat. In some forms, strings can be torn from the stick in a similar manner to string cheese. The texture is rubbery, with a salty taste and smell similar to steamed crab. Cross fiber is manufactured to be similar to the texture and fiber of snow crab or king crab legs.
Imitation crab meat is made from fillets of Alaska pollock which are passed through a machine which removes fish scale, skin and bone, and grinds the flesh. Once the fish has been minced, it is washed with water in a process known as leaching. Leaching cleans the minced meat and also removes some water soluble nutrients. Next, the minced meat goes through a refining machine which separates soft white fish meat from the hard dark brown meat, followed by a screw press which removes excess water. The active proteins are frozen and prevented from degradation with the help of cryoprotective compounds such as sugar and sorbitol. The surimi is finally packaged in polyethylene bags in 22 pound blocks kept in freezers at -20℃.
To make the imitation crab meat, surimi is heated from -20℃ to -4℃ to allow for proper slicing into smaller pieces. The crab meat recipe includes ingredients that enhance the crab-like taste, including natural crab meat, starch, and egg whites. They are then mixed together in a large bowl grinder in a process called comminution and the final mixture is transported to a holding tank from which the mixture goes through the sheet-forming machine. The smooth sheets are then cooked, making the sheet stable. The sheets then undergo a slitting process which gives the texture and appearance of crab, then steamed to form the final product. It is then vacuum packaged in thermoformed trays and placed into either polyethylene, nylon or polyester plastic bags. Finally, it is pasteurized with steam.
Uses in cuisine
A California roll, a sushi roll, can be made with imitation crab meat, avocado, and cucumber rolled with sesame seeds on the outside. Russian, American, and European deli counters have salads prepared with imitation crab meat, eggs, vegetables and herbs chopped together and seasoned with mayonnaise.
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- Laura, Campo-Deano; Clara Tovar (October 2009). "The effect of egg albumen on the viscoelasticity of crab sticks made from Alaska Pollock and Pacific Whiting surimi". Food Hydrocolloids 23 (7): 1641–1646. doi:10.1016/j.foodhyd.2009.03.013. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
- "What's in a Name: Crabless Crab Legs No Longer Imitation". Wall Street Journal. 13 Dec 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2010.(subscription required)
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