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When did fake crab meat become so ubiquitous? And why isn't anyone else complaining?

dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 09:17 AM

A recent post on Hiro Sushi mentioned fake crab and got me thinking. I can't remember the last time I found anyone using real crab--except if you order a whole one. It used to be that exceptional sushi restaurants used only real crab. But, the last time I had a really good sushi made with real crab meat was over 15 years ago at a wonderful place near Kits Beach in Vancouver.

Wouldn't you expect a truly high-end sushi place to use real crab? And it is not just sushi restaurants that substitue this crap for the real stuff. When did the food industry just assume they could replace real crab with fishcake and no one would notice? And when did we as consumers stop expecting more?

Is there an entire generation who have think pink-tinged waxy fishcake is actually crab?

I just HATE fake crab and I am willing to pay more for the real stuff.
Am I alone in this?

  1. e
    embee Mar 20, 2007 09:48 AM

    I don't know when it became ubiquitous, but my understanding is that surimi has long been a staple of Japanese cuisine, quite separate from real shellfish. Anyone from Japan out there to confirm??

    In North America, fake crab and shrimp were first distributed widely for the kosher market. The product was called, proudly, "I Can't Believe It's Not Crab". Seems a shame it spread so widely beyond this understandable niche. (This also applies to fake bacon and edible oil "creme".)

    3 Replies
    1. re: embee
      Pollo Mar 22, 2007 08:18 PM

      Where do you get this BS? Imitation crab distributed by kosher markets??? There is nothing kosher about surimi......

      1. re: Pollo
        ElsieDee Mar 22, 2007 11:19 PM

        Embee's post is correct:

        "The Talmud also teaches us that for every non-Kosher food, there exists an equal and opposite Kosher version (Chullin 109b). Modern food technology has indeed given a new twist to this concept. While lobster, shrimp, and crab may not be Kosher, imitation versions of these non-Kosher staples can now be obtained with excellent Hashgacha. Surimi is an ancient Japanese process by which minced fish is converted into a protein base and used to produce a variety of foods. Today, Kosher surimi (produced under supervision, of course) is used to produce imitation crab legs, lobster, and shrimp ? [sic] and is deemed a reasonable facsimile of the real thing!"
        From: http://www.kashrut.com/articles/fisharticle/

        Also:

        "Surimi is minced white fish that has been processed into a host of different products, from imitation crab legs to shrimp. Using very specialized technology, the delicate texture and flavor of these exotic types of otherwise non-Kosher seafood can be recreated, and indeed Kosher crab, shrimp, and lobster are now available. It is important to note, however, that surimi was not developed for the Kosher market but rather to produce unique Japanese products and inexpensive replacements for these types of seafood. As such, conventional surimi shellfish products often contain significant amounts of real shellfish meat for flavor and therefore offer no Kosher advantage. Even the minced fish from which the surimi is produced requires a reliable Hashgacha to ensure that it was made from a Kosher fish, and that the equipment used to produce Kosher surimi was be properly Kashered. Surimi may therefore only be eaten with a reliable Hashgacha."
        From: http://www.mk.ca/page6_14.php

        However, you are also correct that the "traditional" Japanese process of making surimi is not kosher. But a kosher process of making surimi has been developed and the resulting foods (also being called surimi) are now available in some stores and through on-line markets.

        1. re: Pollo
          e
          embee Mar 23, 2007 06:20 AM

          Cool your jets Pollo. There is kosher surimi and I remember when "I can't believe it's not crab" and "I can't believe it's not shrimp" were introduced with a major splash. I remember how exciting it was to get "crab" in gefilte fish and to have "shrimp" cocktail before a fancy restaurant meal. The "shrimp" cocktail, in retrospect, was awful, but the "crab" gefilte fish was pretty good. Viewed in a Japanese context, this makes perfect sense - fishcake!

          I'm OK with serving processed fish as itself, including in some kinds of sushi. I don't expect a "California roll" to contain any real crab. I'm OK with its acknowledged use - I've eaten some tasty restaurant crab cakes and crab salads that contain fake crab (usually combined with real when it's really good). I have a problem when I order, and pay for, "crab" or "scampi" and am served surimi.

          I also recall the introduction of Coffee Rich and Rich Whip, which were premium products that cost more than the real thing. Like fake crab and fake shrimp, these products met a market driven demand. (Coffee Rich killed a local kosher deli waiter's disgusting little practice of dispensing milk from a personal supply to favoured customers in return for a big tip.) I'm disappointed that, in North America, these products came to frequently masquerade as the real thing. I want real crab, real shrimp, and real cream, or an overt acknowledgment that it isn't. The original reason people served fake crab in my life was because real crab was forbidden. The only reason to label surimi as "crab sushi" is to rip people off.

      2. Splendid Wine Snob Mar 20, 2007 10:05 AM

        Because most restaurants think we won't notice (and for the most part this is unfortunately true).

        I hate to catastrophize, but the oceans are dying, so pretty soon we will be hard pressed to find anything fresh that isn't mass produced in pens and tanks anyway. I always get this sinking feeling when I'm eating seafood of any sort. Then there's the whole debate of wild versus farmed etc...don't want to get into that though.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
          m
          mikep.Toronto Mar 20, 2007 10:07 AM

          I love it. I have gout, and if this is real crab meat, I would have a problem.

        2. Kagemusha Mar 20, 2007 10:10 AM

          Sorry, D&D, but VERY few people would be willing to pay for the real thing.Just check the price on quality "jumbo lump" crab meat and see if it's still worth it to you.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Kagemusha
            dinin and dishin Mar 20, 2007 11:24 AM

            I should qualify that it was a post regarding a sushi establishment billed as "very good" that got my back up on this. I can't believe that a lump of crab meat could be any more expensive that some of the very best tuna or other specialty ingredients you would find in very good sushi. As authentic sushi is all about top quality ingredients I thought the fake stuff was misplaced on that menu. It totally fits at the AYCE places or supermarket, but not at the hands of a so-called sushi master. Thank goodness they haven't found a substitute for soft-shelled crab--yet.

            And as SWS mentioned, I did think about the environmental concerns. Pricing food to reflect scarcity and sustainability should definitely become more prominent in all areas of consumption. Creating cheap substitutes may be the new way of the world (or may not depending on what other species are destroyed in the process). I guess we will all have to suck it up sooner or later. :)

            1. re: Kagemusha
              Candy Mar 20, 2007 11:25 AM

              I always ask if it is real crab and if it is not, I order something else. If I am told it is real and the dish comes out with the krab crap I refuse it.

              1. re: Kagemusha
                Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:16 PM

                To some people, it IS worth the price. A normal pot of gumbo, out of my wife's kitchen runs us about US$300 for 5 gals. but this is becaues she uses real ingredients, and most have to be imported to PHX (DEN before) for her dishes. There is no substitute for the real article.

                Is this typical? I have no clue. However, it's like wine from Charles Shaw/Bronco, that might have the name "Napa" stuck onto it, because of "grandfathering in" of some of their names. It does not make it a Napa wine, and I don't care if it's 10% of the price, if it ain't good, it ain't good. One may dine on that, which they wish to dine on. If I happen to chose the real-deal, and am alone, so be it.

                Hunt

              2. Sam Fujisaka Mar 20, 2007 03:35 PM

                I think the problem is that people in the US call the stuff "fake crab meat" instead of "surimi", which to us is a processed fish product not meant to imitate anything else. Surimi in sushi is perfectly OK.

                31 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                  ChefGirl412 Mar 20, 2007 03:38 PM

                  Surimi sucks,,,too sweet,,,yuk

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                    Candy Mar 20, 2007 04:12 PM

                    Oh no, I ask if is fake crab or surimi. I won't touch the surimi garbage

                    1. re: Candy
                      Sam Fujisaka Mar 20, 2007 04:34 PM

                      CG412 and Candy, do you two also dislike kamaboko, our much more traditional fish cake?

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        Silverjay Mar 20, 2007 05:16 PM

                        Actually, in Japan, what people are calling here "surimi" they call "kani kamaboko" or just "kani kama". I think "surimi" is made from iwashi (sardine), isn't it?

                        1. re: Silverjay
                          hotoynoodle Mar 22, 2007 04:50 AM

                          surimi is most commonly made from pollock.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                            Silverjay Mar 22, 2007 06:20 AM

                            No, you're confused. The Japanese term for imitation crab, usually made from pollock, is not "surimi". It is "kani kamaboko". Real "surimi" is a finely minced seafood ball, most likely made from sardines or other cheap fish, and also sometimes shrimp, etc. For some reason, in the U.S., the term "surimi" has come to mean the imitation crab stuff. Most Americans have probably never tried real "surimi".

                            1. re: Silverjay
                              applehome Mar 22, 2007 11:16 AM

                              Just from looking around a bit, I get the impression that surimi has a generic meaning - which is any processed fish paste food item, including kamaboku and chikuwa, and may have a more specific meaning - although I don't find any references to a specific seafood ball. (The general vs. specific dual meaning is very Japanese, eg - Sake for both whiskey and nihonshu.) Here's a Japanese site that shows the process of making surimi. The paragraph on top is text, but the rest is graphic. The end results show all kinds of seafood paste products, including kamaboko and kani kama sticks.

                              http://www.fishexp.pref.hokkaido.jp/e...

                              1. re: applehome
                                Silverjay Mar 22, 2007 12:00 PM

                                My imagination pretty much already connected the dots about how the stuff is made, but thanks for the link anyway...Yes, "suri" (擂り) as a verb means ground, grinded, or rubbed. So you can have anything with a "surimi" process (meat, vegetables, fish,etc.). For fishballs, look up "tsumire" (つみれ). We sometimes used "surimi" around our house for tsumire, chikuwa, hanpen type things.

                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                          chowser Mar 21, 2007 11:56 AM

                          Maybe because I grew up on assorted "fish" and "shrimp" ball/cylinder, half moon products that I like surimi, too. I love all that in a warm soup w/ udon. And, we'd have it in hot pots, too.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        ChefJune Mar 22, 2007 11:20 AM

                        Sam, it doesn't matter what you call it, and I don't know how it's made in Japan, but in US it's cheap fish doctored up with high fructose corn suryp and artificial colors to "look" like crab... or so they think. I love crab, but I'm deathly allergic to this imitation cr&p! and I always look, ask, etc. Surimi in sushi may be "okay" to some people, but it isn't okay in anything to me. 8>(

                        1. re: ChefJune
                          Sam Fujisaka Mar 22, 2007 11:43 AM

                          Well, we're talking about two entirely different products then. Surimi is made of fish and contains no HFCS. It, like kamaboko, is a traditional food in Japan.

                          You're allergic to fish?

                          That you, and a lot of others could care less what we call things (someone else said that Americans call "sashimi" "sushi" so that is that, end of story) I find culturally insensitive. The "doesn't matter what you call it" attitude is also surprising: on a thread about "best steaks" posters were extremely clear and detailed about what cuts were best, what there were named, and exactly what the cut constituted. Some of the less carnivourous CHers might be tempted to say, "Its all just slabs of red meat, don't care what you call it, I wouldn't eat it".

                          Finally, my point about what it is called: would Americans have such a reaction if the stuff was called "fish cake" instead of fake crab? Even in English, we call the stuff "fish cake".

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            coastie Mar 22, 2007 06:07 PM

                            If it helps at all - I only read this far because of your very informing posts

                            1. re: coastie
                              Sam Fujisaka Mar 22, 2007 07:25 PM

                              Thank you. That is the nicest thing I've heard all day!

                          2. re: ChefJune
                            applehome Mar 22, 2007 11:51 AM

                            This is the wrong attitude!

                            The entire process of using up lesser parts of an animal to present perfectly good protein is considered an art in much of the world. From chacuterie to salumi to surimi (is there a connection?), it is only our recent arrogance and haughty indifference to the needs of the world that have brought us to the point that only bluefin toro and kobe rib-eye are worth eating.

                            There is going to be a global reckoning as we fish the oceans to extinction. Insisting on only eating real crab is going to lead to the end of all crabs.

                            I do believe that it's about good food - and I don't like to substitute fake for real in a recipe that needs the real. But if I'm going to preserve the blues for hammering and picking and soft-shell, then there's room for pollock and other cheap fishes, that otherwise would be tasteless and virtually inedible, to be processed into something that can be decent eats. There's nothing like sitting down for a great oden and getting a delicious variety of surimi - like a Japanese sausage stew, but of fish. Saying never to sausage is not only not good for the earth, but insuring that you'll miss out on some good food. I understand the issue about allergies - but for most, it's the other way around. People that are allergic to shellfish can eat surimi that has no shellfish content.

                            Let's face it - our kids will be eating artificial fish and maybe some real fishcakes simply because there won't be any fish left in the oceans!

                            1. re: applehome
                              K K Mar 22, 2007 12:24 PM

                              I think no matter what there will still be fish, although maybe a huge drop in wild species. Right now there are farmed fish available to satisfy the growing demands, not just salmon, but including hamachi, shima-aji, kanpachi (there are farms in Hawaii), unagi (eel from China), tuna to some extent (I've heard even farmed blue fin where the fat is literally almost white from the fish doing nothing but eat),

                              1. re: K K
                                Splendid Wine Snob Mar 22, 2007 01:00 PM

                                Farmed fish are actually part of the problem. They are genetically different than their wild counterparts and have introduced diseases to wild populations. The only country that has so far avoided this problem is Iceland, where they breed fish in landlocked tanks.

                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                  Sam Fujisaka Mar 22, 2007 01:29 PM

                                  A FEW farmed fish are genetically distinct. Some of the farmed salmon are GM to put on more weight faster. Most farmed salmon and many other farmed fish are genetically the same as their wild brethern. US catfish growers produce in landlocked tanks, as do fish farms all over the globe.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                    Splendid Wine Snob Mar 22, 2007 01:42 PM

                                    This must be fairly recent practice (landlocked tanks). Actually, if you know, I would be interested in what specific countries have adopted this practice.

                                    Did research on this very issue (with respect to Atlantic salmon) in Iceland for several months in 2002.

                                    Will not get into the specifics of what constitutes "genetically diiferent" nor what constitutes a species for we risk digressing into scientific quandries beyond the point of this board.

                                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                      Sam Fujisaka Mar 22, 2007 03:22 PM

                                      Most farmed fish is freshwater, ergo landlocked tanks or cages in rivers and lakes. I now see that you must mean that Iceland grows salt water species in landlocked tanks (?). I believe the Australians or Kiwis do as well.

                                      GM salmon are obviously genetically different but of the same species as their wild relatives. Salmon and trout are different species. Most farmed salmon is not GM and therefore not genetically different from wild relatives of the same species. What's the big deal?

                                      Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but it is the "farmed" part of the farmed salmon that has been responsible for introduction of disease in wild populations, not the fact that they are genetically modified. Relative crowding makes farmed populations more susceptible to diseases that are extant but relatively rare in open populations.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                        Splendid Wine Snob Mar 23, 2007 06:47 AM

                                        Atlantic salmon are not considered strictly saltwater species per se. They are what zoologists refer to as anadromous which means they live in the sea, but come back to spawn in freshwater rivers. Diadromous species follow the opposite of this pattern.

                                        Again, I would like to reiterate that the definition of species is under serious debate in the scientific, and more specifically the zoological community. What we used to refer to as a species is changing quite rapidly due to emerging information in the area of molecular genetics, among other things.

                                        Trout are actually part of the same taxonomic family as salmon. And trout is a pretty loose term when referring to fish.

                                        In my initial post, I was not strictly speaking of GM fish (as I actually never even used this term), however, you are correct in pointing out part of the problem with fish farms is the crowding aspect, which can indeed cause disease susceptibility (and thus transmitance to wild populations).

                                        But to get back to food ;) and the original point of this post, I think it should be a "big deal" to discuss where our food comes from, how we raise and consume it, and to have an open dialogue about this at all times. Food is a natural resource, and we should treat it with the same respect as other resources. Thanks for the post Sam!

                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                          Sam Fujisaka Mar 23, 2007 07:41 AM

                                          Yes, but the question was, do the Icelanders raise true salt-water and/or anadromous or diadromous species in landlocked tanks? If so, it would avert problems of both disease and genetic contamination of wild populations.

                                          I'm an agricultural scientist. Many of my colleageus are plant geneticists. We do a lot with molecular marker technologies. We don't have any problems with species. We do sometimes argue the existance of bio-types--differentiation at the sub-specific level of insects. That trout and salmon are of the same family makes no difference to our discussion: they are different species.

                                          Yes, you didn't mention GM salmon. But I thought the fast weight gain characteristic was not conventionally bred, but was a GM output. In any case, it is the only genetic difference I know about--although I'm not a zoologist and don't work with fish (other than with rice-fish systems in Asia).

                                          Yes, back to food (and this is directed at others): surimi and kamaboko are traditional Japanese (and even kosher!) foods. WE never told the Americans to go and sell it as fake crab!

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                            Splendid Wine Snob Mar 23, 2007 08:21 AM

                                            Sam,

                                            Yes. Icelanders raise Atlantic salmon in landlocked tanks. That was the original point of my post.

                                            It's great to know that you are an agricultural scientist. Then I presume you have a very clear understanding of the difference between plant and animal genetics. Without telling you what I do, because I personally don't think it matters, and it brings us away from the topic of food, I would like to say that what zoologists previously defined as a species (two animals that are distinct based on their inability to breed and produce viable offspring) is changing in that it has been discovered that some previously distinct "species" have the ability to breed. Scientist actually know so little about oceanic ecosystems, in fact, and you can appreciate this, the more we discover, the less we realize we actually know!

                                            Like others that have posted here, I want to know whether what I'm eating is real or an artificially produced product, and this allows all of us to make informed decisions about what we choose to consume. It's about discourse, and in that discourse, we can appreciate and value food for what it is that much more.

                                            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                              Sam Fujisaka Mar 23, 2007 08:33 AM

                                              Splendid, thanks, but just one last: do YOU think, as do some others, that fish cakes are an "artificially produced product"?

                                              Applehome and I see them as "real" and culturally, environmentally, and economically sensible. But, we, like some of the salmon, may be swimming upstream on this one.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                Splendid Wine Snob Mar 23, 2007 09:00 AM

                                                I think that fish cakes are very real in the sense that they contain some animal product, and are an alternative to depleting endangered and/or threatened crab species, but an artificially produced product in the sense that they are manipulated by people. But there's always good with the bad. Sometimes I feel that by producing food alternatives (ie: replacing a "natural" product with something else) leads us away from thinking about the source of our food. And like others that have posted here, there are so many other environmental, economic, and cultural cumulative effects that occur in the production of food.

                                                Man, I could debate this all day. I think this board is so great in that it is generating such a free dialogue on these issues. Thanks Sam, you've made me think of this issue in a whole new light.

                                                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:28 PM

                                                  And, do not forget the Red Dye #5 (since #2 was banished in the '80s), that goes into the creation of "Krab." I guess that Dow has a sustainable commodity there.

                                                  Hunt

                                2. re: K K
                                  applehome Mar 22, 2007 01:53 PM

                                  Get a copy of National Geographic this month to get a status of Bluefin. We've fished the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian ocean stock into virtual extinction, and we've turned our eye on the Mediterranean stock. There are numerous fattening pen operations in Spain and Italy, but much of the fattened tuna is sold at 2-3 years, before spawning. There are so many operations outside of governmental controls that the fish are being decimated right before our eyes, and there's nothing to do - the free market says that as long as the demand is there, someone's going to fill it.

                                  1. re: applehome
                                    Sam Fujisaka Mar 22, 2007 03:29 PM

                                    I'm with you all the way. Fortunately, even free markets have regulations to avoid the "tragedy of the commons" (i.e., group mis-use of common property resources). Let's just hope for our kids--our daughter is three.

                                3. re: applehome
                                  Pollo Mar 22, 2007 08:30 PM

                                  Sorry to have to say this but "applehome" you need to know how a product is made before you make these nonsense comments. There is nothing artisanal or that has to do with "using up lesser parts of an animal" when it comes to making surimi. Surimi is made from perfectly edible species of fish...both texture and flavor...they are not polular/ widely know/eaten in the US but thay are OK to eatr as is. Surimi is not made form the remaints of fish that have been filleted, etc....you are using 100% edible fish species and getting minimal recovery....same thing is done when fish meal is produced or when herring is caught only for the roe and the rest of the fish (perfectly edible) is turned into fish meal or off to dump. Furthemore, surini is very energy intensive, produces hudge amount of waste products (waste water) and the recovery from a whole fish is v. low in the range of 20-30%....basically if you buy the main ingredient for next to nothing you can make profit. Surimi is high in sugars and glycerol....not exactly stuff I want and if you look carefuly the proce is getting to be almost in line with real crab meat....it's just bussines......

                                  1. re: Pollo
                                    applehome Mar 22, 2007 10:42 PM

                                    See the link on my earlier post. It's pretty clear how Japanese make surimi. Kamaboko and other fishcakes in Japan have been made for centuries from fish that were not the most desireable in their basic form - fish that weren't eaten whole, and were often by-products of other catch. The parallel with chacuterie is that labor is substituted (artisanal or otherwise) to make foods that would not normally be eaten by people, more acceptable. There is plenty of waste product with sausage making, as well, but certainly more meat is eaten that would have otherwise been wasted (or used for other purposes).

                                    Perhaps the bigger point, for chowhound purposes is that the cuisine, once again sausages and surimi alike, is wonderful for its own sake. So my reaction to anyone that says that this form of food "isn't okay in anything to me" is that it's a very naive position to take - if not in terms of sustainability, then certainly in terms of cuisine.

                                    Comparing sustainability and profit issues for these processes would be interesting - whether it's better to take undesirable fish and make meal to feed to desireable fish in farms, or process them to create a more directly marketable product. But where surimi has been made for centuries, there is an existant cultural preference that businesses understand very well. Even if there is no such market in the US, there most certainly is in Japan. Maybe in the US, organ meats from hogs, cattle and sheep are used mostly to feed pets or even other hogs, cattle, and sheep. In other parts of the world, they are eaten by people!

                                  2. re: applehome
                                    Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:26 PM

                                    Maybe we should all learn to eat, and enjoy, farm-raised catfish and be done with it.

                                    Hunt

                                4. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                  mwerkharder Mar 22, 2007 06:22 PM

                                  Yes, but the sushi places don't call it "surimi". If you order crab and avocado et al, you get the fake stuff automatically. It does not say surimi and avo roll at all. That's my problem with it. Don't actually call it crab when it's not.

                                5. b
                                  Blueicus Mar 20, 2007 04:39 PM

                                  I will unrepentently state that I enjoy surimi, although there is still good versus bad surimi. However, I also enjoy crab and I've not yet been confused by someone substituting surimi for crab and am annoyed when "crab" stands for surimi in a dish (like crap dips, maki, etc.). I feel that there is a right to complain to management that when crab is stated in a menu it should be crab and not surimi (although I assume all california rolls have surimi, no matter what is said on the menu).

                                  I would rather have cheap surimi than nasty cheap chemical-tasting mechanically separated crab meat that is then shredded into unrecognizable bits.

                                  1. f
                                    FlavoursGal Mar 20, 2007 04:45 PM

                                    dinin and dishin, why don't you give Sado Sushi a try? They have real crab available for anyone who wants it. My daughter loves their Volcano, which is made with surimi. Last time we were there, the chef sent over the regular volcano we'd ordered, as well as one made using real crab (one the house). It was nice to be able to compare two side-by-side dishes in this way. The real crab won out with everyone other than my 15-year-old (the same kid went into a bit of a rage at the age of 8 when she ordered a crab salad sandwich in California and was served real crab; "Is this REAL CRAB??? Yuck!!!").

                                    1. ipsedixit Mar 20, 2007 04:49 PM

                                      When it's not sushi (or sashimi), I don't care if it is fake crab meat or surimi.

                                      I simply cannot discern any difference when used in a salad, soup, Chinese hotpot, or stir-fried.

                                      1. j
                                        justagthing Mar 20, 2007 04:52 PM

                                        d and d...got a story for you that i think you would appreciate. I love Restaurant Koi in Seal Beach and I decided to get some Calif rolls to go b/c I was going to hang out with some friends and their kids. They use real crab meat there. Anyways, the kids were so excited b/c they love CA rolls. They took one bite and looked at me and said, "Auntie..these taste funny?" I couldn't help but laugh. They were so used to the fake crab meat that they didn't like the real stuff. I don't eat CA rolls very often, but if I do, it has to be made with real crab. Another source for real crab sushi for cheap is Wild Oats markets, if they have a sushi section...

                                        1. Covert Ops Mar 21, 2007 11:37 AM

                                          There's a sushi place near us (in Daytona Beach, Fla.) that serves California rolls with choice of "krab," blue crab or king crab. The price difference for a half-roll is pretty minimal -- $2.50 vs. $4 or so? I got the king crab and it was an unmistakable "crab" flavor. But I'm well aware that most CA rolls contain fake crab, or "C-legs" as my mom always called them (I don't know why), so I'm not upset when I come across it. Usign real crab is different, not necessarily more "honest."

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Covert Ops
                                            f
                                            FlavoursGal Mar 21, 2007 12:19 PM

                                            Actually, I think it's "Sea Legs" - there might even be a company marketing them under this name.

                                          2. Davwud Mar 21, 2007 11:44 AM

                                            I really don't mind the taste of the stuff. The stuff really doesn't like me though. Everytime I eat it, I have this overwhelming urge to sit down in a small room.

                                            I completely agree that it's way out of place in a restaurant, when billed as "Crab." Blattant false advertizing if you ask me.

                                            DT

                                            1. Will Owen Mar 21, 2007 01:36 PM

                                              The fake stuff actually works better in some preparations. I don't want it in my sushi, I don't care how authentic it is, but I made some seafood enchiladas with equal parts Reconstituted Fish Product and real ittybitty shrimp and they were the best ever. That fakey flavor, simmered in cream with chiles, onion and cilantro, came out tasting exactly right. Go figure.

                                              1. ipsedixit Mar 21, 2007 02:11 PM

                                                I'm just curious. In a blind tasting, how many people would be able to correctly discern the fake from the real crab meat.

                                                I know that I can't, unless told.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  chowser Mar 21, 2007 03:11 PM

                                                  Really? The artificial stuff is really sweet. It doesn't have any crab in it at all. I like surimi (though my husband told me I wouldn't eat it if I saw how it was made--I guess it's like the scrapple of the fish world) but it's so different from real crab meat to me.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                    h
                                                    Humbucker Mar 21, 2007 06:13 PM

                                                    Unless it's been pulverized in a salad preparation, surimi is very different from real crab. Having said that, I really like surimi.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                      applehome Mar 22, 2007 10:31 AM

                                                      I would think that a majority could. I can most certainly taste the difference not only between real/fake, but also between crabs and the meat types (legs from king, blue lump, stone crab claws, or any part of a lobster). I wouldn't want a crab cake made from king crab legs any more than I would from kani kama.

                                                      It does depend on the recipe and how its used - like someone else said, enough mayo (or butter or beer, for that matter) and who cares?

                                                      Like so many other things, a side by side comparison would really bring out the differences. I've had Japanese crab sashimi right beside spiny lobster sashimi, (both while the critters were still kicking around) and while the texture isn't very different when raw, the tastes are remarkably different. Maybe some folks couldn't tell when having a mayo'd "seafood salad" with kani kama vs. one with generic crabmeat from a can. But most folks should easily taste and feel the difference just having the pieces cold with a little butter - even if cut to look identical.

                                                      I bet you could tell the difference if someone threw a boiled blue on the newspaper and a package of kani kama... although how you'd open the plastic package with the mallot, I'd never know. With enough beers, anything is possible. Or how wouldone go about finding a soft-shell kani-kama...

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        c
                                                        C70 Mar 22, 2007 11:21 AM

                                                        the texture is so different, how could you miss that?

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                          f
                                                          fara Jul 20, 2008 04:06 PM

                                                          you should try a crab cake made with real crab.

                                                        2. Glencora Mar 21, 2007 07:20 PM

                                                          Yes, of course I could tell the difference if I were blind-folded. What a silly question. Also, I recently had some lovely sushi with real crab meat and was inspired to make my own. The higher price is worth it, because not much is needed.

                                                          1. g
                                                            gr8edchz Mar 21, 2007 09:07 PM

                                                            I complain by absolutely refusing to order/eat anything with it in it. I got a kani at a sushi restaurant recently that came made with that stuff. Very politely and discretely I sent it back and reminded them that, that was not crab. It was something else. They were nice about it and explained that most people seem not to care but told me what to order exactly to get the real thing. It cost a little more but the taste was incomparable! So good. I order it every time I go there now. So good....

                                                            1. flourgirl Mar 22, 2007 05:30 AM

                                                              I don't like surimi and without question can tell immediately if I'm eating something that is made from real crab or something that is made with surimi. I don't order things that say they contain crab on a menu unless I am absolutely sure that the item is made from real crab. And even then, I would only order such an item if I was reasonably certain that the crab would be high quality as well. I agree with what another poster here said that cheap crab can be nasty.

                                                              As far as crab/surimi in salad, if someone can't tell whether their salad was made with real crab or surimi then that salad must have been loaded with mayo or whatever and that, to me, is totally disgusting anyway.

                                                              1. q
                                                                Quesera Mar 22, 2007 11:00 AM

                                                                I agree, I dont want anything "fake"...but what is the "fake" really made of is my big question?

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: Quesera
                                                                  c
                                                                  chartreusevelour Mar 22, 2007 11:13 AM

                                                                  some answers to some questions raised herein:

                                                                  some people have more tasting ability than others, just like some people's eyesight is better than others'. that's why some people can taste the difference and some people can't.

                                                                  crab is so expensive because it is extremely labor intensive to get the meat out of the shell. (but i think it's so worth it! it's my favorite food.)

                                                                  i really think that restaurants should not be allowed to call stuff "crab" if it isn't really crab. just like they shouldn't be able to call beef "pork" etc.

                                                                  1. re: chartreusevelour
                                                                    j
                                                                    justagthing Mar 22, 2007 11:28 AM

                                                                    so chicken fried steak shouldn't have the word chicken...:)

                                                                  2. re: Quesera
                                                                    ccbweb Mar 22, 2007 11:27 AM

                                                                    Most "fake" or imitation crab is made from pollock or other cheap, easily obtainable white fish.

                                                                    And, to the OP's original question about why people aren't upset or complaining is that, at least in my experience, I've never seen a situation where someone lead me to believe I was getting actual, fresh crab meat and then put imitation crab down in front of me. The two products bear absolutely no resemblence to each other in terms of appearance, texture or taste.

                                                                    1. re: Quesera
                                                                      Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:35 PM

                                                                      Bleached and formed pollack, in most cases. Then, Red Dye #5 is judiciously added to hint at it being crab meat. The shapes, are actually often those of a crab claw. Menhaden are also "pressed" into service, should pollack not be readily be available.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                    2. K K Mar 22, 2007 12:29 PM

                                                                      I for one stopped liking California rolls for a long time, which is the meat of all complaints for a place not using real crab meat or not. Some places that do use real crab meat make it into (or source it to something that is already made into) a salad with mayo and other things. To me it is a bit of a waste to use fresh or cooked but not artificially flavored/marinated crab meat with avo, cucumbers.

                                                                      When I do want crab with my sushi, it would have to be nigiri, or gunkan maki (like how uni or ikura is served). I'd rather find a restaurant that would either use some sort of seasonal local crab if I do, maybe king crab, but the best is finding a place that can get Japanese snow crab (cooked of course), extra points for using the entrail paste as a topping (kani miso) for a purely shellfishy experience.

                                                                      1. q
                                                                        Querencia Mar 22, 2007 06:01 PM

                                                                        A pound of lump crabmeat in Chicago today 3-22-07 was $34. Maybe that's why everybody is using the fake. Brand on can was Phillips (a Maryland icon) but can also said "Product of Indonesia".

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Querencia
                                                                          d
                                                                          Docsknotinn Jul 16, 2008 05:25 AM

                                                                          That same imported lump crabmeat from Phillips can be purchased at your local Costco for $11! Buy two pounds of that and you just saved enough to pay for an annual membership.
                                                                          Just know that that's NOT real blue crab. It's "blue swimming" crab which is an entirely different sub species. True fresh Maryland blue crab would be around the $34 a pound mark. Retailers are taking a huge advantage of the customers lack of knowledge about that product with pricing.

                                                                          1. re: Docsknotinn
                                                                            hill food Jul 16, 2008 08:19 PM

                                                                            yeah Doc, I think that's sort of the unspoken msg. of this thread: there's nothing really wrong with surimi - just don't kid yourself or anybody else it's something it's not.

                                                                            I like it - ain't crab, but I like it.

                                                                            knowledge. it can be disenchanting.

                                                                            1. re: Docsknotinn
                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:39 PM

                                                                              Docsknotinn,

                                                                              That is why my wife gets her Gulf Blue Crab shipped up from New Orleans. It's packed in dry ice and shipped counter to counter via Southwest Airlines. It is different and it is better.

                                                                              Now, we do like the Gulf variety better than Chesapeake Bay, or similar, but that is personal taste.

                                                                              Give me the real, good stuff....

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                Jen76 Jul 23, 2008 11:22 PM

                                                                                I've been to sushi restaurants where the menu states "Krab" to denote that it's not real crab. Personally, I don't much care for it, however, it does allow my mom to try more items since she's allergic to shellfish and crab. But, then we have a friend who is allergic to wheat and corn, so when the three of us go out for sushi, it's always an adventure. ;) Thankfully, I can eat anything.

                                                                                1. re: Jen76
                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:00 PM

                                                                                  I understand your situation. Wife grew up in New Orleans, so every third dish had oyster this, or oyster that. At some point, she developed an allergy to bi-valves: oysters, clams, scallops, et al. It's not a mollusk thing, as she still can do abablone and limpets - just anything with 2 shells is off limits.

                                                                                  Still, with that reservation, she's the sushi/sashimi expert in the family. I enjoy it, but she craves it. She is also very negative on artificial crab meat (she's fine with all varieties), as am I. She can spot it in the tiniest quantites in a tightly pressed roll, and lets the chef, or server, know of her displeasure.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                          2. m
                                                                            monkfanatic Mar 22, 2007 11:33 PM

                                                                            once time I ate in a italian restaurant, after dinner the server asked me how was my food, I told them for the price I paid I shouldn't be giving fake crab meat, if I pay $10 , it's ok it's fake , but if i pay $30 , I should get real crab meat, so they didn't charge me for my food., I think they should put it on the menu if they are going to serve fahe crab meat. people should know what they are getting

                                                                            1. chefschickie Jul 16, 2008 09:00 PM

                                                                              Whole Foods in Boca actually makes their California Rolls with Real crab, no lump or anything but it is real crab....

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: chefschickie
                                                                                grayelf Jul 18, 2008 10:11 AM

                                                                                It seems to me that many sushi bars here (Vancouver) differentiate on the menu between real crab and what I know as kamaboko. Which is a very good thing for me as I am allergic to crab (not in the close-up-throat-and-die way but rather in the instant oral eject way). Although I don't think it tastes or acts much like crab meat, I rather enjoy the stuff, whatever you call it, but I agree it would be uncool to try to pass it off as the real thing.

                                                                              2. p
                                                                                Potomac Bob Jul 18, 2008 02:04 PM

                                                                                Why use fake crab? Because it's cheaper than the real stuff. But at an expensive sushi place, where you're paying for the best, substituting the fake stuff should be a federal crime. But then, that's not the only things restaurants substitute. Those "wild plums" you order often come out of a dried prune box. "Sea scallops" often are really cheaper bay scallops. "Fresh bread baked on the premises" was often just a frozen loaf before it really was "baked on the premises" - but before it was baked it was made elsewhere, frozen and shipped to the restaurant. What's real about ReaLemon? And what about that "fresh turkey" you bought for Thanksgiving. Under federal law, it is legal to call it "fresh turkey" even though it's been frozen solid. Pig in a Poke. Dead Ringer. Let the Cat Out of the Bag. All English phrases that came about because somebody tried to substitute something inferior for something they advertised as superior.

                                                                                1. E Eto Jul 19, 2008 09:08 AM

                                                                                  If you're going to a quality sushi place, the chance of you seeing fake crab (aka kani kama) is usually dependent on your ordering choices. That is, if you're seeking a quality sushi place, you would be ordering omakase or at least communicating with the sushi chef about what are the freshest ingredients or the best seasonal ingredients they have in stock, and ordering accordingly. If you are ordering california rolls, or spicy tuna rolls, then what you are getting (even at the "quality" sushi places) are most likely sub-quality ingredients. Even "real" crab for california rolls aren't good quality crab, but will likely be the cheapest frozen crab meat, like you might find at places like Red Lobster. For sushi chefs, quality crab are seasonal ingredients, and they will not use these ingredients in california rolls, but will more likely serve them as nigiri or part of a special course (look at this thread for a good example: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/537923 ). It seems that most sushi places (even the "quality" places) use fake or cheap crab meat because there's a real demand for it, for those people who want california rolls, and who aren't likely to pay the premium for good quality fresh crab.

                                                                                  1. p
                                                                                    phan1 Jul 19, 2008 04:49 PM

                                                                                    I agree with the price issue. In terms of wheather or not it's worth it, I would have to say it isn't worth it for a restaurant. I think customers would rather spend less and have the fake crab (and more of it) rather than real crab. Even canned crab meat is expensive.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: phan1
                                                                                      Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:44 PM

                                                                                      That is a decision, that the restaurant must make. If their clients cannot tell the difference, then they can get away with it. If their clients know, then they are caught. It is a call, from the front of the house. If you can scam the clients, then all is OK. If your clients know the difference, they will not be your clients for long. It's a crap shoot. Go for the golden ring, and if you miss, and your clients go elsewhere, that is life. You tried to make a bottom line, at their expense, and bet that they'd never know. If they do, you loose.

                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                    2. vvvindaloo Jul 19, 2008 06:09 PM

                                                                                      I'm with you, d&d. I don't know much about the processed fish substitute for crab that they enjoy in Japan. I can only speak for the spongy, chewy white and orange striped stuff they call "imitation crab" here in NY- I can't stand it.

                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: vvvindaloo
                                                                                        Sam Fujisaka Jul 20, 2008 04:43 PM

                                                                                        I'm going to give this thread one more try.

                                                                                        Are Japanese fish cakes called "imitation crab" and used in place of crab in the US? If so, of course it would be irritating to get fake crab when one is in search of real crab.

                                                                                        On the other hand, are Americans denying themselves the pleasure of enjoying perfectly authentic Japanese fish cakes?

                                                                                        Fish cakes have long been common in Japanese food. Types include kamaboko, satsuma-age, chikuwa, narutomaki (with a pink swirl pattern inside), shinjo, and others. I love these and use them in nori maki or eat with hot gohan. We have never called any of this "imitation crab".

                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                          JungMann Jul 20, 2008 05:07 PM

                                                                                          They're not referring to fishcakes, which are not widely available in the US. The imitation crab most people are referring to is surimi, marketed as "imitation crab" in the US. Bad branding has turned this from something to be enjoyed sui generis into a cheap substitute for something else in the public consciousness.

                                                                                          http://img.alibaba.com/photo/50324919...

                                                                                          1. re: JungMann
                                                                                            E Eto Jul 20, 2008 11:06 PM

                                                                                            This has nothing to do with branding. I'm not sure why "surimi" is synomymous with "imitation crab" in the US. I don't think anyone has intentionally branded "surimi". It seems more like a term that stuck after a report or article from a misinformed journalist, exposing imitation crab for what it is. The bulk of this thread is a bit absurd to me, as it would be as if I said I didn't like Mexican tacos because I don't like the tacos at Taco Bell. They call those tacos, so they must represent all tacos, right?

                                                                                            1. re: E Eto
                                                                                              hill food Jul 21, 2008 12:06 AM

                                                                                              what, Taco Bell isn't authentic?

                                                                                              anyway Jack in the Box tacos are far better and worse.

                                                                                              I for one, don't consider it a minute as imitation anything. We (I'm) just using a relatively neutral term (surimi) because I may not know better, rather than commercial ones like Krab or SeaLegs which just obscure what the product really is.

                                                                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                            vvvindaloo Jul 20, 2008 05:52 PM

                                                                                            Sam, I'd be happy to try a Japanese fish cake anytime you agree to make it for me.
                                                                                            I am pretty sure that this is not what most of us are referring to when we express our disgust at receiving the substance I described in my post above in place of real crab.

                                                                                            1. re: vvvindaloo
                                                                                              Sam Fujisaka Jul 21, 2008 08:30 PM

                                                                                              Ahhh, vvvvv, I remember as a kid cold red-rimmed half circle slices of kamaboko, pick up a slice with chopsticks, dip end in just a bit of shoyu, and eat with hot gohan. The combination of the cold, now slightly salted, fishcake with the pure, hot gohan!!!!

                                                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:50 PM

                                                                                              Sam,

                                                                                              If a restaurant calls their fish cakes, "fish cakes," I have not problem. It is different, when they label it something else, like "crab meat," that I find offensive.

                                                                                              It would be similar to a restaurant calling all sorts of various parts of a cow, "Prime Beef." Call it what it is, and if I like it, I'm happy. Call it something else, and face my wrath, as a client.

                                                                                              There are many possible ethnic (to me) dishes, that I do not wish to sample. Tell me what I about to eat, so I can decide. If I wish to follow in the footsteps of "Eating Disgusting Foods," on the Travel Channel, so be it. If I do not, I should not face some restauranteur trying to fool me, just for his/her bottom line.

                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                t
                                                                                                tmso Jul 22, 2008 04:54 AM

                                                                                                Sam, I'm not sure if you're still reading this, but yeah "imitation crab" is Japanese fish cake sold under a terrible name. I think it's a US or maybe US/UK phenomenon.

                                                                                                Here in France, fish cakes of various kinds are sold as "surimi" and are quite popular. Sometimes big swirly rolls that are sliced, sometimes shaped as sticks, sometimes shaped as sticks and filled, etc. I like the bâtonnets sautéed with olives and tomatoes and served with pasta. Or slices of the lightly smoked larger rolls as an appetizer, like how one would serve salami.

                                                                                                1. re: tmso
                                                                                                  Sam Fujisaka Jul 23, 2008 07:06 AM

                                                                                                  tmso, exactly. That was the point of my last post here. Because fish cakes are called "imitation crab" in the US, many Americans are already against it (and again, I agree that selling imitation in place of real crab is problematic). If sold as "surumi" I think many Americans would really love the stuff.

                                                                                            3. p
                                                                                              pan cakes Jul 20, 2008 04:17 PM

                                                                                              I've noticed this problem a lot these days....It just sucks!!!! I pay money for nice food dishes, yet the restaurant gives me fake, cheap food. It is really annoying.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: pan cakes
                                                                                                hill food Jul 20, 2008 07:35 PM

                                                                                                I only find it annoying when it's presented as crab. Sell it to me as pressed whitefish (mostly pollack I believe) with a little red dye and I'm cool.

                                                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                                                  MMRuth Jul 21, 2008 05:42 AM

                                                                                                  Exactly.

                                                                                                2. re: pan cakes
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:52 PM

                                                                                                  It is all about the restauranteur/chef guessing that you cannot tell the difference, and then pocketing the difference. Probably, the majority of diners do not care about the origin of the food, or the quality, so long as it is super-sized and they have a big bag of leftovers.

                                                                                                  If you do love the food, then let them know. If you do not, and can tell the difference, then they should know that, too. Still, I do not think most diners really know, nor do they care - just "super-size" me.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                3. d
                                                                                                  dolores Jul 21, 2008 05:16 AM

                                                                                                  >>when did we as consumers stop expecting more?

                                                                                                  Old post, but still relevant. dinin and dishin, consumers are more lax than ever in accepting the unacceptable. Heck, they even now check themselves out and bag their own groceries. Consumers are pathetic sheeple in 2008.

                                                                                                  Fake crab? Didn't like its fake pinky hue when it first came out and I wouldn't go near it now. No, you're not alone. I have paid upwards of $30+ for a container of the real thing to use in a quiche, for pity sake, and no there IS no substitute. Granted, I can't avail myself of this luxury all the time but hey, here's an idea, do without when you can't!

                                                                                                  But sushi restaurants using the fake garbage? I hope not the places I frequent and judging from my new favorite, I don't think so.

                                                                                                  Isn't it sad, dinin and dishin, what today's food consumers will accept? Glad I'm not one of them.

                                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: dolores
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:56 PM

                                                                                                    At last! Someone, who knows and actually cares. How refreshing to see these words typed. Well stated. Too bad that so many, especially those who call themselves foodies, do not care, or cannot differentiate the real from the fake.

                                                                                                    In my estimation, the theme restauranteurs have won the battle, as they can now server whatever they want, call it whatever they want, and people will line up for that experience.

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                      MMRuth Jul 22, 2008 06:30 AM

                                                                                                      I may have misremembered the general gist of most of the replies, but my sense was that posters didn't mind restaurants selling it, as long as they didn't try to pass it off as real crab. Doesn't mean that we like it or eat it.

                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Jul 22, 2008 08:40 PM

                                                                                                        MMRuth,

                                                                                                        It seems to have varied, by the poster. Personally, its availability is not my issue. If some love it, fine. I am one, however, who does not want any chef sneaking it into my dish. I do not enjoy the taste, or the texture. However, being from the Deep South, Coastal region, I know what real crab tastes like, and what its consistancy should be.

                                                                                                        I'd never fault a person, because they enjoy something. That is their palate, not mine. There is much, that I do not enjoy, but more, that I love.

                                                                                                        I'm not a fan of domestic (US) sardines, but love them, in Europe, especially Spain and Portugal. Still, I have no problem with them on a US menu - unless someone tries to re-name them and sneak them into my dish.

                                                                                                        I'm with you on this one.

                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                          MMRuth Jul 23, 2008 04:17 AM

                                                                                                          I did notice, by the way, that our "cheap" sushi place lists it as crab - in a California roll, and in several other dishes in which I suspect it is not real crab. But, I don't order thing things that have it in it, so it doesn't particularly bother me.

                                                                                                    2. re: dolores
                                                                                                      applehome Jul 22, 2008 12:21 AM

                                                                                                      Some would say that crab in a container other than it's shell is not the real thing. It's relative - I've had crab sashimi, where the living critter was split and the meat pulled out and given to me - perhaps I could make the judgment that this is the only way to truly taste crab.

                                                                                                      People who eat well done beef cannot tell the quality of beef, so restaurants keep the older, or less marbled, or otherwise less desirable pieces aside to serve to those that ask for well done meat. People who eat California rolls are eating sushi designed for people who don't like sushi, and as such probably could not tell the difference between real and imitation crab. Why not serve the cheapest? Even where it is advertised that real crab is used, is this fresh cracked local crab? Frozen king crab? Canned lump? Canned Fin? How many California Roll eaters could tell the difference?

                                                                                                      From the perspective of a culture that has made deliciousness out of fish cakes in many forms, the desire of Americans to eat fake sushi but make a fuss out of eating fake crab is both humorous and sad.

                                                                                                      1. re: applehome
                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Jul 22, 2008 08:46 PM

                                                                                                        As for the crab analogy, I am not in this camp. I've had plenty of crab that was picked and packaged, with all of the wonderful charm of the meat. The taste was there, as was the texture. I've even had frozen packaged crab, that was very good. I do not think that one needs to pull the meat from the shell, to experience it, though we usually get "care packages" of fresh Gulf Blue Crab shipped counter-to-counter, so my wife can do her gumbo.

                                                                                                        It is that, which is passed off as "crab," but is not even close, that I have a problem with. If others enjoy it, that is fine with me. I do not, and resent anyone trying to convince me that this is the "real" stuff.

                                                                                                        As one, who has caught and cooked crab for many decades, I enjoy the real stuff, even if it has been frozen, provided that it's been handled well and with care.

                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                          applehome Jul 23, 2008 12:51 AM

                                                                                                          If someone is telling you to your face that this California Roll has real crab, and it doesn't, you would have a point. But anyone who would assume that a California Roll had real crab in it might also assume that the Moon is made of cheese. Assume all you want - it ain't the truth. Why would an imitation product like California Roll have real crab in it? Why would anyone assume that it did?

                                                                                                          And you're saying that if someone says there's real crab in something, it doesn't matter to you if it's canned fin or fresh cracked Japanese Spider Crab (or in your case Gulf Blue Crab)? Of course it matters - you would taste the difference right away. $8/lb vs. $100/lb - I should think most people would know the difference. If a restaurant or a fishmonger charged you for the spider crab and gave you the canned fin, you'd be just as pissed off as if you had gotten Kanikama.

                                                                                                          But the fact remains that the canned fin crab is acceptable to many folks in certain recipes. And the processed Pollock is also acceptable to some in certain recipes - even if they also enjoy sitting down to some ridiculously expensive crab sashimi when the occasion presents itself.

                                                                                                          This is a nation that eats petroleum products made into flat yellow squares and called "Cheese Food Product". Or frankfurters that are defined with percentages of acceptability of insect and foreign matter. Beer that is made with corn (which the Belgians will market to the rest of the world - just can't wait for Stella Artweiser, the new adjunct beer from Belgium!). Our sugar is synthesized from corn. Our meat comes complete with hormones. And we're upset about fake crab made from fish?

                                                                                                          1. re: applehome
                                                                                                            hill food Jul 23, 2008 01:14 AM

                                                                                                            NO, no I must object - those flat yellow squares are made from a VERY small amount of petroleum and mostly secondhand in the by-processing. Hydrogenated vegetable oil with artificial flavorings is the main ingredient I believe.

                                                                                                            people laugh at gov't cheese, but it's actually much better than most commercial.

                                                                                                            1. re: applehome
                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 23, 2008 08:34 PM

                                                                                                              See, this is where you and I differ. I do not do "authentic imitation processed cheese-food product.” You may love it, but do not try and pass it off on me. You may choose bleached, shredded, formed pollack with red dye #5, but I do not, especially if you try and convince me that it is crab meat - any type of crab meat.

                                                                                                              I recently took the food and beverage department of my country club to task for serving artificial crab in some of their salads. Their practices changed because of this.

                                                                                                              If I encounter artificial components in my dish, and they are not noted as such, I have a problem and vote with my patronage.

                                                                                                              I would never begin to tell you what to eat, or what to enjoy. That is your choice. I read the fine print on the menus, and inquire, if I have a concern. I also return dishes, that portray something, that they do not deliver. I understand that most menu blurbs are written by copywriters, and not chefs, but then I read “between” the lines.

                                                                                                              Please dine on what you enjoy, but do not try to tell me what I should enjoy. It ain’t gonna’ happen. If you enjoy the substitutes, or cannot tell the difference, fine with me. I have culinary standards, that I will protect to the end.

                                                                                                              Bon Appetite,

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                applehome Jul 23, 2008 11:26 PM

                                                                                                                We are different indeed, if you are satisfied that the salad now has "real crab" with no further distinction. Because I come from a culture that enjoys fish cakes of all sorts, I see a place for them, even though I won't settle for a poor product, fish cake or crab. I wonder what your country club is now serving - lump from a can? Cheap tasteless fin from a can? Maybe the club has someone out back steaming and opening up some frozen king crab legs. I don't understand why this doesn't matter to you - they're radically different in taste and texture, and ought to matter to anyone with such high culinary standards.

                                                                                                                You're creating a straw man and arguing with him very well. Nobody's telling you to eat something you don't like. I'm just saying that some people's expectations are unrealistic if they ask for an imitation product and then demand only genuine ingredients.

                                                                                                        2. re: dolores
                                                                                                          linguafood Jul 22, 2008 02:44 AM

                                                                                                          It's comforting to know that someone, out there, is fighting the good fight for consumer rights and teaching bad restaurants/supermarkets a lesson each and every time, dolores -- because only through constant repetition will they understand that we will not put up with this horrible treatment.

                                                                                                          Don't ever give up your principles, and do keep us posted on your successes!!

                                                                                                        3. Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2008 09:04 PM

                                                                                                          At one time, it was named "Krab," with a "K," to differentiate it from the real product. Krab is most often pollack (a "bait fish"), that is bleached and then pressed into a shape. Dyes are added to give it some color. At one time, pollack was used mostly in cat food. Lately, it is being used in many "seafood" dishes.

                                                                                                          To me, this is a sign that many folk would just as soon dine on cat food, or do not know the difference. I am not sure which is the sadder commentary.

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                            hill food Jul 22, 2008 12:35 AM

                                                                                                            Hunt - I largely agree with your sentiments. it should never be presented as anything other than what it is, but being its own beast (so to speak) it can be appreciated as such - although I think the red dye is silly and misleading.

                                                                                                            and yeah even as indolent college students in the midwest 80's we knew it wasn't real.

                                                                                                            your wife's gumbo sounds like a blessing and a privilege.

                                                                                                            1. re: hill food
                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 22, 2008 08:58 PM

                                                                                                              Trust me, her gumbo is something to savor. We used to do a gumbo dinner, just for my major clients. I'm still convinced that some of these folk used my services, only to be on her A-list!

                                                                                                              Yes, tell me what you are serving me and be honest. It might be better, than I anticipate, but please do not try to fool me.

                                                                                                              I'm not a fan of having every menu in the US give full-disclosure of every ingredient and the USDA rating of each, but I feel that if one is defining a dish, it should tell us what is in it. If it's imitation Krab, so be it. I can pass, or try. If it's pollack with a shape, bleach and dye, then please do not try to convince me that it is something else.

                                                                                                              As I get to travel much of the world, I get to see folk eating all sorts of things. If they enjoy them, fine. That is their taste, though it might not be mine. Let me know what's really going into a dish, and I will decide.

                                                                                                              Heck, I've had bad dishes with real ingredients, that I normally enjoy, but just did not in a particular prep. I've also been surprised, when I ordered something, that I usually do not enjoy (sweetbreads come to mind), but the chef has transcended my tastes and has made me a believer. It's like sampling a wine, that I thought I'd hate, only to find that I really enjoy it. Happens all of the time - just do not tell me it's a Cab Franc, when it's French Columbard with red dye.

                                                                                                              As for what we ate in our college days (mine were a few decades before yours), I still enjoy Ritz crackers and Jiffy Crunchy Peanut Butter. That was our main meal, except for Fridays, when we'd hit the campus pizza parlor. Wife still recalls her French fry po-boys, while in nursing school. Still, no one was trying to sell either of us something, that it was not.

                                                                                                              BTW, did you enjoy the Krab, back in those days? I never did, but maybe that's just me.

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                          2. pikawicca Jul 22, 2008 05:34 AM

                                                                                                            The gulf coast seafood truck is in town today, and I will pay about $23 for a pound of jumbo lump crab meat that I will make into crab cakes tonight. Krab has its place in Asian cuisine, but keep it out of my crab cakes and crab Louis!

                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 22, 2008 08:59 PM

                                                                                                              Hey, the Gulf Coast seafood truck sounds like a great deal. Unfortunately, we do not have one of those in AZ. We have to head down to the SW Airlines freight counter to get ours! Then, it's only when the family has spent the afternoon on the docks.

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                hill food Jul 23, 2008 12:42 AM

                                                                                                                "did you enjoy the Krab, back in those days?"

                                                                                                                yeah, but at that price we weren't fooled - it was a diversion from canned tuna.

                                                                                                                AZ? surely with some research you can get some good shellfish up from the sea of Cortez?

                                                                                                                Chowser, if they've never had real how would they know?...

                                                                                                                and Hannah - what a total rip-off and I think the point of many on this thread.

                                                                                                                1. re: hill food
                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 23, 2008 08:40 PM

                                                                                                                  Actually, we had some "farmed" shrimp from Gila Bend (totally land-locked), that were tasty. However, no one tried to pass them off as Gulf shrimp. Tell me what you're serving. Please do not try and fool me, just to make your bottom line.

                                                                                                                  Fortunately, I can now afford the very best, and do not take kindly to folk trying to fool me.

                                                                                                                  Back to the "college days," I still enjoy good fish sticks, if I can find them. Once, they were actual fish, but most today are along the lines of Krab. If one has to bleach it, form it and flavor it, I will pass.

                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                            2. chowser Jul 22, 2008 06:18 AM

                                                                                                              I'm curious how many people have come across this phenomenon. I have never seen fake crab presented as real crab anywhere. I always assume California rolls are made w/ fake crab meat and never seen it otherwise but it's labeled such. I've also never met anyone who couldn't tell fake crab from real crab (overly sweet spongy texture vs texture/taste of real crab?). It's as different as fake meat is from real meat.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                d
                                                                                                                dhmill Dec 30, 2011 07:06 PM

                                                                                                                Fake meat/real meat? Personally I like fried Spam.

                                                                                                                1. re: dhmill
                                                                                                                  chowser Dec 31, 2011 03:50 PM

                                                                                                                  But would you ever confuse a piece of fried spam for steak?

                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                    d
                                                                                                                    dhmill Dec 31, 2011 03:54 PM

                                                                                                                    Absolutly not! I may like the fried Spam with eggs or in a sandwich but I'd rather have a nice thick medium rare porterhouse steak.

                                                                                                              2. h
                                                                                                                HannahBanana Jul 22, 2008 12:16 PM

                                                                                                                Went on a very pricey cruise recently and repeatedly was served fake crab......and it was actually described as premium lump crab meat on the menus....we were NOT impressed.
                                                                                                                Note: Surimi is VERY high in sugar!!

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: HannahBanana
                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 23, 2008 08:57 PM

                                                                                                                  Hannah,

                                                                                                                  How can you possibly be offended by fake crab, being passed off as the real thing? You are sounding like me now.

                                                                                                                  When I encounter this stuff, I too, am offended, and vote with my patronage, or my country club vote. Too many others here, seem ready to defend this practice, based on some cultural norm, or some historical reference.

                                                                                                                  Give me the real, or do not do it at all. Most of all, do not try and fool me with some imitation, regardless of how some cultures might embrace it.

                                                                                                                  Just call me old fashioned, or a golden palate, but I do not want someone trying to pass lumpfish roe off as caviar - especially if they are charging me for the real stuff.

                                                                                                                  I'm with you 100%,

                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                2. Cowprintrabbit Jul 24, 2008 12:24 AM

                                                                                                                  very interesting thread - I grew up thinking imitation crab (Krab) was monkfish, which dines on crab and lobster, and the taste comes through (kind of like how flamingoes get their color from shrimp?)

                                                                                                                  I still like the Krab, either in a salad or a CA roll, as a separate food type from real crab. Although I will take a good spider roll (fried whole soft-shell crab)! To me, places that use real crab in CA rolls usually use low-end stuff that ruins the taste of the whole roll with its blandness or else drown it in mayo to try and perk it up a little.

                                                                                                                  Oh, and stuffed salmon or sole with a Krab/rice/cheese stuffing is to die for :-) But give me a King Crab leg any day. I guess my point, if I have one, is a place for everything and everything in its place. A return to the crab/krab terminology would be good...

                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Cowprintrabbit
                                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Jul 24, 2008 07:25 PM

                                                                                                                    Cowprintrabbit,

                                                                                                                    I appreciate your palate, with your choices. Yes, it differs from mine, but that is what can make food appreciation so personal. You like, what you like, and I might have different tastes, but that *should* be OK. However, it appears that, to many, it is not.

                                                                                                                    However, your last line (which I agree with, BTW) is counter to what many on this thread would espouse. It’s not about telling the patron what is actually being served, but to expect that all patrons will accept whatever is served, because some segment of the world’s population enjoys it – regardless of what it is, or what it is called. As I stated, I agree with you, but others do not. They want substitutions to be made, with no claim to authenticity, just because some people “like it.”

                                                                                                                    Well, in the US (where I happen to be from), a large segment of the population happily dines at Denny’s. I do not. I do not care how pervasive that chain might be, or how many other folk really enjoy it. I do not do Denny’s. Just because a segment of some countries population loves a dish, does not mean that I should accept it, especially if it’s named something else.

                                                                                                                    To me, it is stupidity for some to expect that all will love something and accept anything, just because a number of folk in another country embrace it, regardless of the name.

                                                                                                                    If the menu says “crab,” I expect crab. If it’s great crab, I’m happy. If it’s bad crab, then I complain due to the quality, not because it was really something else – regardless of what many in the world might enjoy. They are not me. I am probably not one of them. If they wish to think that an ingredient is something else, that’s fine. Just do not try to fool me, or my wife. Tell me what the ingredient is, and let me decide. This is for Krab, crab, or Colorado Lamb. I want the truth. Guess that I (and my wife) are alone in this, as most of the posts have attempted to rationalize why substitution of processed fish, in the name of crab is OK.

                                                                                                                    Thanks for posting. I think that you made your point very well, and appreciate your taking the time to do so.

                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                      pikawicca Jul 25, 2008 05:19 AM

                                                                                                                      You certainly are not alone in expecting restaurants to be truthful. I get really hot under the collar when I order at an upscale place and I'm told the beef is from "Smith Family Farm," and I run into Mrs. Smith at the farmers' market on Saturday and she tells me they've never sold to said restaurant. Same thing when a menu claims all their produce is local and organic, but I then see a Sysco truck unloading produce out back. Same with the krab/crab thing.

                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                                        SoulFoodie Jul 25, 2008 05:39 AM

                                                                                                                        "Just do not try to fool me, or my wife. Tell me what the ingredient is, and let me decide. This is for Krab, crab, or Colorado Lamb. I want the truth. Guess that I (and my wife) are alone in this, as most of the posts have attempted to rationalize why substitution of processed fish, in the name of crab is OK."

                                                                                                                        No, for me it's not OK so you're definitely not alone. I don't have a golden palate or unlimited funds. But even if I did, I'd still expect full disclosure for what I'm paying for.

                                                                                                                        1. re: SoulFoodie
                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jul 25, 2008 09:23 PM

                                                                                                                          Glad to hear that we are not alone in this. It is the subtrafuge that bothers me. Tell me what I am about to order, and follow through on that. Simple.

                                                                                                                          Thanks for your support,

                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                            Jen76 Jul 26, 2008 09:39 AM

                                                                                                                            I don't eat at fine dining establishments...well...ever, really. So I guess to me it's not that big of a deal. I mean, I would suspect that if I were ordering a sushi roll with "crab" in it, but it only cost $6-8, it's probably not gonna be real crab. Now, if I walked into a place like T. Cook's (one of Phoenix's top restaurants I think) and got krab, I would be appalled. But I don't think that would happen. I'm pretty easy going on chain restaurants and small cheapie places which is where I tend to eat because I'm broke. ;D

                                                                                                                            1. re: Jen76
                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jul 27, 2008 07:48 PM

                                                                                                                              I cannot imagine any circumstance where T. Cook's would serve Krab. Maybe it has happened, but my surprise would take my breath away.

                                                                                                                              You point up something for me to think about, regarding the "level" of restaurants. While we do the occasional small spots, around the globe, most of our dining out is in "fine-dining" spots, so maybe it is more of one's expectations and their choice of dining locations. Thanks for sharing that perspective.

                                                                                                                              In Phoenix, I think that Chefs Nobu, Vincent, Mark (Tarbell), et al, would kill any purveyor, who brought the artificial stuff into their restaurants. Same of Alan Wong, Chef Mavro, Bev Gannon, or Sam Choy, in Hawai`i.

                                                                                                                              Some years ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to sit down with Chef Warren LaRuth (LaRuth's, NOLA), and I spoke to him in his native "New Orleanian," regarding his choice of ingredients.that he used. He was specific on the quality, and the integrity of his food. He supported the local producers, especially for his veggies and his seafood. I also think he'd have taken a 12" chef's knife to anyone bringing in Krab to his restaurant. Could be that he had access to the best and the freshest ingredients, and would have passed on anything else.

                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                Jen76 Jul 27, 2008 10:58 PM

                                                                                                                                Of course T. Cook's wouldn't use krab. I was merely using it to make a point. (I have actually eaten there and it's marvelous.) If you are used to eating in fine dining restaurants, and then you go to a casual, moderately priced place, you cannot expect the same quality of ingredients. It doesn't bother me to get krab in my pho, because that big bowl of steaming pho only costs me $5.50. But, you know, it's so good that I'd take it over most fine dining dinners. That's just me though.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Jen76
                                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jul 28, 2008 08:30 PM

                                                                                                                                  I do agree. If I stop by one of the taco trucks in Phoenix, I do not expect to get the same food as at Vincent's. Still, with our limited time, any one place, we usually go higher-end, or cook at home, on those few nights that we get to sleep in our own bed.

                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                  2. w
                                                                                                                    wtongen Aug 13, 2010 08:08 PM

                                                                                                                    OK, OK, so general consensus is that imitation crab is inferior. Big surprise. However, enough peeps have indicated that imitation crab (surimi) is a foodsuff in-and-of-itself. Chances are we are stuck with it and crab is likely to get more scarce over time.

                                                                                                                    So what brands, styles (flake vs. sticks) and products of imitation crab are best? Which ones have the best texture, crab flavor (crabbiness?). hold up in recipes, etc.??? Let's hear some imitation crab reviews. Anyone care to contribute?

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: wtongen
                                                                                                                      hill food Aug 13, 2010 10:01 PM

                                                                                                                      I appreciate this approach, but maybe it's best suited as a separate thread, dealing with it as a thing unto itself rather than trailing all these denunciations.

                                                                                                                      1. re: wtongen
                                                                                                                        chowser Aug 15, 2010 04:00 PM

                                                                                                                        I think of imitation crab as just one type of surimi. While I don't like imitation crab, there are types of surimi you can get from Asian markets, fish balls, shrimp ball, meat ball, cylinder shapes, that are very good. I don't think they can replace crab because they're not close in texture or taste, IMO--you have to think of them as a different product.

                                                                                                                        http://www.luckysurimi.com/

                                                                                                                      2. thew Aug 15, 2010 04:25 PM

                                                                                                                        surimi is only fake food if hamburger is fake food

                                                                                                                        it's been a staple in japan for 1000 years

                                                                                                                        1. m
                                                                                                                          morwen Aug 16, 2010 01:01 PM

                                                                                                                          I can't tell you how many times I've asked, "Is it real crab?" before ordering, been told that it was, and had my dinner turn out to be dyed, flavored fish cake. I always send it back. Do they think their patrons can't tell the difference?

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: morwen
                                                                                                                            m
                                                                                                                            melgon Oct 14, 2011 01:12 AM

                                                                                                                            I still always wonder the same thing. I hate feeling disappointed at all these restaurants I try just to find real crab meat.

                                                                                                                            Jinbeh in Las Colinas (Dallas) serves real crab meat. I will drive from Houston just to eat there :)

                                                                                                                          2. EWSflash Nov 3, 2011 06:46 PM

                                                                                                                            Can you say "hot dog"? Why is seafood so sacrosanct? It's not like anybody is trying to fool you into thinking that it's right out of the sea without any alteration. And for those like me, far from the ocean, it's a nice toothy tasty surimi substitute. Nobody's trying to fool me, and even before i became a chowhound I grew to love those surimi fish cakes that come on a bamboo or wooden board. I didn't know much about Japanese cuisine at the time, but I liked the fish cakes.

                                                                                                                            1. n
                                                                                                                              nhazen Apr 12, 2012 02:02 PM

                                                                                                                              No you are not alone. I cannot eat krab because it has gluten in it. My daughter and I are both gluten intolerant. She was posoined by the fake crab on Easter when a salad that always in the past was made with real crab came with the imitation stuff. Wow was she sick for two days. themenu did not spell the imitation as krab so she did not know until it was too late. Not only is it a tacky thing for a fine restaurant to serve, it can actually poison someone who is gluten intolerant. I get angry when I want good sushi and they don't have the real crab.
                                                                                                                              No...you are not alone.

                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: nhazen
                                                                                                                                p
                                                                                                                                purple bot Apr 12, 2012 09:32 PM

                                                                                                                                nhazen, you realize this thread is from 2007, right? Anyway, it's an interesting read. I was always impressed with the words of gone but not forgotten Sam Fujisaka.

                                                                                                                                1. re: purple bot
                                                                                                                                  jnk Apr 13, 2012 06:45 AM

                                                                                                                                  Purple, I was thinking the same thing about reading Sam's words.

                                                                                                                                2. re: nhazen
                                                                                                                                  hill food Apr 12, 2012 09:35 PM

                                                                                                                                  and that is the crux of the issue. present it for what it is. don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining. now if I ASK you to do such well that's another thing altogether.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: nhazen
                                                                                                                                    b
                                                                                                                                    beachmouse Apr 13, 2012 07:30 AM

                                                                                                                                    State law down here requires accurate labeling of fish & seafood products, and the krab/crab deal is always most or second most common when the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation publishes their lists of infractions.

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