Our readers will remember a review we did some time ago on the Bellevue Hotel where we were served a sushi plate and to our shock and surprise amongst the beautiful fresh seafood was Kanikama or commonly known as artificial crab sticks. At the time we asked Why? Why we lamented would a high class restaurant use artificial seafood when there is such a (cheap) abundant source of seafood at every wet market in Bohol!
While the abomination of Kanikama actually does contain fish it’s sad to see restaurants use it and quite frankly it shows up a lazy kitchen. Some more ’sophisticated’ byproducts of this fake food craze are crab claws which in some cases are reconstituted crab (or fish) made into life like reproductions with plastic membranes faking the crab skeleton!
While we experienced ‘fake food’ again recently, happily we don’t see this ‘fake food craze’ happen too often but restauranteurs need to understand that they are not only fooling themselves when they stoop to use these quick fixes, they are fooling their customers who are paying with their hard earned money.
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Crab sticks – imitation crab meat made from surimi.
Crab sticks (imitation crab meat, seafood sticks, krab) are a form of kamaboko, a processed seafood made of finely pulverized white fishflesh (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.
2 Production of Imitation Crab Meat
3 Uses in cuisine
4 See also
History Sugiyo Co., Ltd. (スギヨSugiyo?) of Japan first produced and patented crab sticks in 1973, asKanikama. 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 enzymetransglutaminase. 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.
Quality imitation crab is usually lower in cholesterol than real crab meat, but is also highly processed.
Production of Imitation Crab Meat
Processing of imitation crab meat needs to be very carefully monitored in order to prevent diseased fish from being processed. Starting from the right type of fish and turning it into a vacuum packaged crab meat, all the steps are taken to maximize the quality of the finished product. The first step after catching the fish is the selecting the right species. Usually the Alaska pollock or walleye pollock are most commonly used. Only the correct type of fish are used for further processing. It is then washed and separated according to their size as this allows for maximum fillet yield. After washing, the fish is loaded on machines which removes all of the unwanted parts such as the heads, tails and internal matter. Once again the fillets are thoroughly washed to remove any remaining impurities. The next step is surimi preparation.
During surimi production, fish is further loaded into a machine that removes fish scale, skin and bone. This machine also rotates and grinds the soft fleshy parts of the fish. Once the fish has been minced, it is washed with water in a process known as leaching. Leaching thoroughly cleans the minced meat and also removes water soluble minerals and inorganic minerals leading to nutritional loss. 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 aids in removing excess water from the minced meat. Once water is successfully removed, 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℃.
The surimi is stored at -20℃ until it is used. 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 all of the ingredients that enhance the crab like taste. Those ingredients include natural crab meat, starch, egg whites and other constituents. 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 where the imitation crab mixture goes through the sheet-forming machine. The smooth sheets finally go through a cooking stage which helps in making the sheet stable. The sheets then undergo a slitting process where it receives the texture and appearance of the crab and steamed forming the final product. Imitation crab meat is vacuum packaged in thermoformed trays and placed into either polyethylene, nylon or polyester plastic bags. Finally, pasteurization takes place in a steam cooker to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria and allow for an increased shelf life.