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The term surimi usually stands for a fish product made from pulverized white fish. It was invented in Japan, where it has been produced for centuries. The word surimi is a Japanese loan word. Western food industry discovered surimi in the second half of the 20th century. It is almost completely odour- and tasteless and has a high water and protein content. These properties make it an ideal basis for industrial food processing into an infinite number of products.

Surimi is mostly sold as imitation crab meat, often called fish crabmeat or crab sticks. It may also mimic prawn, lobster or shellfish meat or be used as a basis for fish sausages or topping for ready made pizzas.

Less common in Western markets but also available is meat surimi made from pork, beef or turkey meat. It is a popular ingredient in Chinese products, for example meat balls.

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Production of surimi

The most common fish for the production of surimi is Alaska pollock. The fish is usually processed on factory ships while still on the ocean. It is deboned, minced and rinsed with salt water. The resulting fish paste is sieved and pressed. The addition of sorbitol and phosphates gives a viscous texture and ensures that a large amount of water can be bound. A basic surimi paste rich in water and protein is obtained after the addition of water. The protein content of this paste lies between 8 and 12 percent. It is completely odour- and tasteless. Only the addition of seasonings, starch, egg white, flavouring agents and/or other ingredients gives the finished product its desired flavour. Further processing of this basic surimi paste includes moulding into the desired form, pressing and heat treatment, for example grilling, deep-frying, frying or steaming. In a last step the imitation crabmeat is coloured to resemble the original.

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