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Surimi: The Ground Meat Paste That Doesn’t Have To Be Fish Only!

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 1, 2022

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Surimi ((すり身), literally means “ground meat” and refers to a paste made from fish or other meat.

Surimi is minced meat or fish pounded into a paste. It is then seasoned in different styles and used as the basis for various forms of kamaboko. The most well-known product made from surimi is crab sticks or imitation crab, also often referred to as surimi sticks.

The thing most people don’t know is that surimi doesn’t have to be minced fish, because it often is presented that way.

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What does surimi mean?

Surimi means ground meat so it can be made from fish or any other type of meat. Most often it’s made from white fish because of the ease of use.

What does surimi taste like?

The surimi itself is relatively odorless and tasteless. By separating the lean meat and rinsing it over and over, all of the fishy flavors and odors have been removed from the end product, the surimi paste.

When making fish paste without removing the flavor, it is called otoshimi. Surimi is therefore a type of otoshimi.

The rinsed and cleaned meat is pounded and pulverized so much, it turns into a gelatinous paste that can then be further processed and mixed with different quantities of starch, egg white, salt, sorbitol, sugar, seasoning, and enhancers such as MSG to form different flavors and textures.

That’s why it’s such a great base product to make imitation crab out of, along other types of kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) products. It takes on the flavor of the seasoning of choice quite well.

What’s the origin of surimi?

It’s believed that the first surimi was produced in Japan from pollock, a native Japanese fish, in 1115 to make kamaboko.

It wasn’t until 1975 when it was first used by the Osaki Suisan Co as kanikama or “surimi sticks” as a crab-like imitation meat.

What’s the difference between surimi and otoshimi?

Otoshimi is made similarly to surimi. However, it uses fish offal rather than lean fish meat, and the fish has not been soaked in water as surimi has. As a result, it has a stronger flavor and odor, which some people prefer.

What’s the difference between surimi and kamaboko?

Kamaboko is a Japanese fish cake made with surimi and other ingredients such as egg whites, salt, MSG, and starch. It is then steamed and formed into different shapes. There are many different types of kamaboko, each with their own unique flavor and texture.

What’s the difference between surimi and jaiba?

Jaiba is the Spanish word for crab, and it generally refers to fresh or cooked crab meat. It’s used in salads, but when imitation crab is used, it’s called surimi.

Is surimi healthy?

The surimi itself is very healthy because it has all of the health benefits of white meat fish.

The extra additives used to make surimi sticks or other kamaboko are often too salty or high in sugar, making them a bit less good for your health.

Conclusion

Surimi is often thought of as imitation crab sticks, but that’s just because they are very popular and made from surimi paste.

There’s so much more you can do with this base ingredient, and you’ll likely encounter it all over Asia if you know where to look.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.