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Crab with a "K"

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I attended a luncheon with my co-workers at a local pub type restaurant. I ordered "Crab" (the way it was spelled) nachos and I specifically asked the waitress if they were made with real crab meat, as they were a somewhat more expensive menu item. She enthusiastically asssured me they were. Well imagine my surprise when I was served nachos with "Krab" pieces red dye and all. I politely informed the waitress that this was not what I wanted. She did not understand my complaint and my co-workers looked at me like I was the biggest B!@%^ in the world. Shouldn't restaurants be required to use real seafood in lieu of the fake stuff? And if they do use "Krab" shouldn't they note it on the menu and charge less? Was I wrong to return it??!!

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  1. Having lived in MD my whole life, this is the exact reason I will not order anything with "crab" in it when travelling outside of the state. I laugh when I see "MD crabcakes" in other states. When my sister almost ordered them once, I reminded her where we were. She was like "Oh that's right, I forgot." lol.

    You were not wrong for returning it, but I'm not suprised the waitress didn't understand the difference. If you've never had real crabmeat, you have nothing to compare it to.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carey24

      Having also grown up in MD (and with my wife from Baltimore), I will absolutely agree that there are great crabcakes to be had in MD. But There also tons of pretenders that just play off the fact that they are in Maryland, so they must be Maryland crabcakes. OFten they are horrible. By the same token, while a bit more rare, I have had really great blue crab cakes outside of Maryland (a few in NJ, NY, etc.). To be honest, I base a lot on what is being charged. If you see two large crabcakes for 11.95, you can be sure they will be awful. Of course a price of $30 doesn't guarantee success, but it's a realistic price.

      1. re: bnemes3343

        I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't illegal to sell Krab as actual crab in Maryland. And I really cannot imagine the reaction they'd get from a Marylander when they were presented with Krab when the menu stated Crab.

        Remember all the trouble Phillips Seafood restaurants got in for claiming to serve local or fresh crab when it was actually pasteurized blue crab from the Phillipines and Thailand? I've had some great crabcakes out of state & some horrible ones in Maryland, too.

        BTW, sounds like the OPer was using your pricing guide to determine quality and she still got Krab!

    2. You were entirely in the right. No question at all.

      Your question about whether restaurants should be required to use real seafood is different. In this case, you asked and were misinformed by the restaurant. If they put "crab" on the menu then it should be the real thing. If you ask and are told its the real thing, then it should certainly be the real thing. But, they are free to put whatever they like on the menu and charge what they wish for it. They are not free to tell you its something else and hold you to it once you discover that it is, in fact, not the genuine article.

      1. You were in the right 100%, restaurants should identify if a menu item is made with Krab.

        I find Krab to be disgusting.

        1. I suspect in this particular case the waitress either didn't know the difference or didn't care, possibly both. However, if someone really wants to be deceptive, you need to be careful how you ask the question. The surimi imitation crab does apparently contain some real crab meat, the rest being processed fish. So "Are these nachos made with real crab" can truthfully be answered "yes" even though that's clearly not what you're asking. Also, surimi is in fact "seafood" although the "real" part is certainly debatable.

          That said, you were right to ask in the first place, right to complain about what you got, and right to return it, IMHO.

          4 Replies
          1. re: FlyFish

            Most surimi I've seen doesn't have any crab meat in it at all, just pollack or other whitefish.

            1. re: Humbucker

              I certainly agree about surimi in general, but it's my understanding that the imitation crab surimi-based products usually contain some real crab, a very minimal amount (maybe just some sort of extracted crab flavor?) in the cheaper brands and somewhat more in the more expensive ones. Regardless, they shouldn't be selling it as "crab."

            2. re: FlyFish

              The appropriate question should be, "is this some bleached fish alternative with appropriate dyes, or is this actually 100% crabmeat?" Obviously, the majority of CH folk cannot tell the difference and that anyting is fair game. This is my opinon based on earlier threads on this very subject. Now, I, who have a knowledge of the two very different substances, feel otherwise, but the masses (who must enjoy Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast) seem to have the majority vote on this. For me, if it is not 100% crab (blue, king or otherwise), it is not CRAB, and anyone who serves the other variations should be hanged.

              Color me biased,

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                And tarred and feathered! I will not touch anything spelled with a K...
                As to your comment that most do not know, I am surprised.

                I would not be surprised if it had crab flavoring in it. "Lets boil all that crab shell detritus and flavor whitefish with the essence from it". "And streak it with some red food coloring". Yum Yes, I see surimi is flavored in many different ways.
                I want the "firm surimi seafood that tastes like a bicycle tire"....

            3. No, you were not wrong to return it. They should have told you what it was. It's dishonest and can be potentially dangerous to some individuals (eg. celiac) as immitation crab can have gluten in it.

              This story kind of worries me because I have a serious allergy to skate fish and know that many fake scallops use skate wing. I'd be pretty pissed off if I ordered scallops, asked the waitstaff if it was real scallop, and received my arch nemesis.

              1. You write crab you give crab, you write crab and serve pollock no different than writing lobster and serving monkfish.

                Jfood reviewed a potential investment in a self-contained surimi vessel 20 years ago and it was the best video he had ever seen. Mrs jfood really liked as well.

                They did not do the write thing and you did the right thing.

                1. You were right to return the Krab, although I cannot imagine any seafood on Nachos.

                  I actually enjoy the Krab gunkan at Blue C sushi.

                  Here is more than you ever wanted to know about surimi...

                  http://oregonprogress.oregonstate.edu...

                  1. Going back about one year, there was a thread on this very subject. Some, like me, argued that crab was crab, but Krab was Krap! Most felt that it was buyer beware and that anything was OK, because some cultures embraced imitation crab, so it was wonderful. I said Krap to them, but was in the minority, since much of Asia allows substitutions, and no one is supposed to know the difference. The consensus was that if most of Asia allows this, then no one should argue, regardless of how it's spelled, or what it contains.

                    You might want to do a search of this board to see how wrong you (and I) are to the unwashed masses. We, Kpaumer, are in the minority and should just flow with the punches. Hey, can 600M Asians be wrong? Forget what you thought you knew about the tastes of any seafood dishes, the masses rule.

                    Hunt

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I realize you want to pick a fight, but there is none to pick. No one on that thread ever said it was right to serve fake crab as real crab. If real crab is advertised, if the waitstaff tells you it's real crab, and then fake crab appears, by all means, 86 the dish, yell at the waitstaff, and demand to see the chef and owner.

                      However...

                      You presented, in that thread, a different perspective - that all fake crab was bad and should not be considered as food. And that's ridiculous. Lots and lots of mock foods exist and have been created over time - some efforts to create mock foods have led to new and wonderful dishes. The entire genre of chacuterie is about making lesser meats into edible and even special dishes. What's meat loaf other than a mock roast?

                      The use of lower grade fish, typically considered inedible, to make excellent eating fish cakes has been a tradition in Japan for centuries, if not millennia. It wasn't made up to look like crab or referred to as crab until modern times, but that's modern marketing for ya. Pollock is the low end of the cod family, mushy and tasteless - so making something tasty out of it is not necessarily a bad thing. If you ever have a chance to eat a real oden dinner in a Japanese home or restaurant, I hope your prejudice towards fish cakes made into "krab" doesn't keep you from trying it. It's a most delicious meal, and I'm sure most Americans would consider it more than palatable.

                      It's time we all consider something else besides our God given right to eat the planet to death as an American heritage. Enough has been written recently, by Pollan and others, that help us (at least those of us that are concerned for what our children will eat) question both the basic lack of resources, and the factory farming aspects of today's food that are presented as a solution. We simply can't keep eating seafood at the rate we are without making adjustments. Surimi, as it's being made today isn't necessarily the solution - and neither is it always about enabling us to eat more and more of the lower-food-chain proteins, in some sort of bizarre get to the bottom first contest. But change is inevitable. Even the great Itamaes in Japan recognize that their basic ingredients are going away and they need to change what they serve. We ought to recognize that real stuff is going to get more scarce, and we ought to adjust our tolerance for innovations that allow us to stretch what's out there.

                      Does that mean that providers should lie about what they're serving? Of course not. But perhaps they lie because we will not tolerate krab as an edible solution. If we accepted krab more, then they wouldn't hesitate to put it on the menu more often, and it would be an honest transaction. Everybody gains - especially the shrinking stock of crabs.

                      1. re: applehome

                        Correct. I remember that thread, and your characterization is far more accurate.

                        1. re: applehome

                          AH, I remember that thread and I was pursuaded by your logic - that more who accept artificial crab put less stress on the crab supply - but you sympathize with lying, in your last paragraph above, when simple truth should get you to the same place. I wish you had not included that last paragraph. I also would like to "save the world", but not through winking at deceptive practices.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            One could also argue for saving the pollack vs the blue (or other) crab. In many places in the US, the recent crab harvests have been much higher than in the past. Same for some of the shrimp harvests. Do not know about the pollack harvests, as I do not follow those.

                            Maybe we should just eat rocks...

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Veggo

                              You're misinterpreting me. Both at the beginning and the end of the post I stress that providers should not lie about what they're serving - I don't know how you could get anything else out of that post. No winking involved. How do you get from my desire for honest transactions to a sympathy for lying?

                              People's tastes do drive the restaurant industry, so we do have a responsibility to keep open minds and try things. But if you listen to a lot of what people like Bourdain and Ruhlman are saying, you hear that chefs and restaurants lead the way - they don't just serve what people want, they set the agenda. The way to do that responsibly is by serving the right foods deliciously, so people see how good it can be. Simply serving a traditional crab dish with krab is not the way to go about it. And where they have been thought through, and chefs have taken the time to adjust recipes and create something special, then they ought to have no problem presenting it on the menu as a delicious imitation crab dish, and have the servers recommend it as being really good with the imitation crab.

                              Personally, I would try a krab nachos dish, if I knew that the chef had tried to create something special. And indeed, I would be pissed off if I were expecting real crab and just got krab. But then, like I said in the original thread, I would also be pissed off if a restaurant served runny threads of cheap, tasteless junk crab instead of jumbo lump or backfin. Perhaps, even more than with krab.

                              1. re: applehome

                                A, thanks for the clarification. I first read your comment "...perhaps they lie because we will not tolerate krab as an edible solution" as sort of cognitive dissonance with tacit acceptance, but I'm pleased to know you embrace higher principles.
                                Personally I loathe the taste of "krab, or crab delight", and I make a waiter assure me twice that I will get the genuine article if I order a crab dish, or give him/her an easy out by suggesting that I order something else.
                                On the good side, scavengers like lobsters and crabs sometimes have a way of proliferating in huge, unexpected bursts, with no scientific explanation. Good surprises seem increasingly rare; nice to get an occasional one. Unfortunately, the future of blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay is not looking good, because of man's hand.

                            2. re: applehome

                              That's a good synopsis of that old (and long thread). First, artificial crab (or krab) is not what the Japanese eat. It's a different type of surimi. As an analogy, it would be like comparing hot dogs to a sausage, both ground up meet but not the same thing. If you went to a restaurant and asked for a steak and received hot dog, that would be wrong, as is the case of receiving krab when you wanted real crab. But that doesn't make sausages bad. And, it doesn't mean that someone who likes sausages thinks it's okay to pass hot dogs off as filet. I don't remember anyone saying that they do it in Asia and, therefore, the rest of the world must also accept it. And to say the majority of CH can't tell the difference, just because some like processed fish, not as krab but as a cultural dish, is a stretch. Just because someone likes sausages doesn't mean he can't tell the difference between steak and hot dogs. I think I've dragged that analogy enough...

                              1. re: applehome

                                Funny, I never thought of meatloaf as anything else than what it is; jazzed up ground meat (loaf).

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  So what was the initial reaction to grinding up the lousy meat and making a loaf, when people knew nothing but hunks of real meat? Do you think the locals were in love with it right off the bat? But with a little imagination.charcuterie was born. People invent incredible things out of necessity. If you don't believe that it's necessary to start controlling what we eat out of the ocean now, when do you think? I agree with Chowser that a lot of the American Krab isn't up to the standards of Japanese kamaboko, ganmodoki, gobomaki , hanpen, or whatever. But I've actually used some in a batch of oden and with the appropriate tsuyu some of those sticks can be tasty.

                                  So what's with us Chowhounds being so proud of showing our closed minds? Since when did we become proud of our ignorance and start standing up for our right to put down foods, especially ethnic foods? Nobody - absolutely nobody I know - favors lying to customers. But if a product is presented appropriately, why are chowhounds jumpng on the bandwagon to hate "artificial" fish?

                                  Take a look at some of the pix on this site. This is what oden looks like. Would you turn it down based on it's being ground up pollock?

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oden

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Oden is a completely different dish from sushi or sashimi. It is served hot with mustard and a dipping sauce. If you ever run into it, I think you'd enjoy it. I think most Americans would like it.

                                    If anyone ever served you pollock as sashimi, you should shoot them - it's not a good fish for eating raw - just tasteless and textureless. I don't even like it cooked, as in fish'nchips - much preferring a piece of cod or the fish I consider the best in that family, haddock. But pollock roe is eaten the same as cod roe (tarako). There is a popular version with hot peppers (mentaiko). Also the male Sperm sac is eaten as sushi (shirako).

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      Good info...scribble..scribble.. copious notes. Good sushi and Oden around Bradenton is as scarce as hensteeth, but with gas prices falling, the good stuff in Sarasota and Tampa is back in striking range!
                                      Thanks, applehome. I'll try the oden.
                                      EDIT: I'll FIND the oden.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I'm wondering if it's an acquired taste, though, with oden. I grew up w/ it and never thought twice but my husband doesn't like it at all (though he'll eat spam of all things). I can't have a bowl of udon without it. It's a much denser texture than krab. And, it's not just fish but meat, too. Kind of a dense, spongier meatball (that's an unappetizing description). It's also often on the sweet side, not very but you can taste it.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          I think people who like fish stews (cioppino, bouillabaise, etc.) would be open to oden. It's not the same thing, to be sure, but if you're ok with a hot fishy soup base and tasty fish chunks, you would probably like it. OTOH, if fish cakes are an issue, konnyaku may be an even bigger one. I like it, as well as the agedofu and daikon pieces - makes a nice change of pace from the fish. Konnyaku is a jelly made from a mountain root which is treated with lye. Sounds weird, I know., but it's basically tasteless. It's known to be very good for you - especially as a diet food, because it has zero calories but signficant minerals and vitamins. Pieces of kombu (the thick seaweed) round out the mixture.

                                          1. re: applehome

                                            We've been making big batches of oden on Sundays and eating it throughout the week for lunch. I think oden tamago is one of my desert island foods. Oden isn't fried, doesn't contain meat, and doesn't come in ranch flavor. So that pretty much limits its' appeal to only about 10% of the U.S. dining masses.

                                            1. re: Silverjay

                                              On crabsticks: "kani kama" as they are called in Japan are really popular. In supermarkets, there is a section with a small selection of different brands and types. Some are better than others. At cheap sushi places or kaiten sushi places, you'll sometimes see gunkan maki with minced crab stick and mayo salad. (My wife likes these, but I think they're nasty.) You'll also see salads sometimes served with minced "crab" sticks. Other than this, you don't see them at restaurants in Japan. And they are never offered as sneaky substitutes for real crab. Their appearance as psuedo snow crab legs is sort of a lark. I can't imagine someone there getting indignant over their existence. The good ones aren't artificial except for a bit of coloring. Anyway, minced, pressed, preserved, fish balls/ sticks are a part of Japanese culinary culture. They're certainly not for everyone.

                                            2. re: applehome

                                              I had to look all that up. I grew up with it (though not Japanese) and while my parents had their names for everything, we called them by shape and general product, eg fish cylinders, meat balls, shrimp half spheres. It was always part of udon, ramen or sukiyaki. I'd also like to point out that oden is japanese, not common across all asian cultures (except those that have been under Japanese influence), and 600m Asians aren't eating krab and thinking it's real crab. Oddly, Japanese food is comfort food for me, from oyako donburi to yogan to oden in udon, even more than Taiwanese food where my family is from. It's the influence in my parents generation.

                                              I haven't had konnyaku but there are a lot of asian foods that are more about texture than taste, sea cucumber, jelly fish, shark fin and that sounds like it, too.

                              2. When you explicitly asked and were told it was real crab, you had every right to send it back, and IMO, they should have apologized.

                                I like surimi just fine. I like making a nice light salad with it and eating just like that, but I do not think it tastes like crab at all. It tastes like surimi. It has its place, but it should be listed as -imitation crab- the way it is -labeled-.

                                1. Your story reminds me of a time when I was in an Asian restaurant and ordered a crab with asparagus dish that was featured on the "specials" menu. When the dish arrived, it was clear beyond doubt that the crab was actually krab. I called the server over to tell him I was unhappy with the dish because it was not real crab. His reply to me was something along the lines of, "Of course it's not real crab. Real crab is too expensive!"

                                  1. Interesting. Tonight, Nov 06, on "Kitchen Nighmares," Gordon Ramsey almost puked on a dish with "Krab." Maybe that says something.

                                    Hunt

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      if I recall the place claimed it was (capital C) Crab and who the hell orders seafood in Michigan anyway?

                                      the point isn't the product, but the representation.

                                      try to sell me Krab as Crab and yeah, I'll be pissed. Sell me pressed whitefish as Surimi and sure, I'm fine.

                                      it's just about honesty.

                                    2. Eeeeesh I agree, crab with a K is not my choice. I don't think you were wrong to return it.
                                      My husband will not order seafood in new restaurants until he has been a few times and sort of tests other dishes on the menu.
                                      I've been burned before asking if something is "real" - so I decided if I feel I have to ask, I do not order it. I've also learned to order per the restaurant- if 97% of the menu is fried food and sandwich wraps- avoid the filet mignon...

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                        That is usually wise advice, regardless of the restaurant. If they specialize in Mexican (regardless of the state represented), then the Osso Bucco is probably not the best item to choose. Maybe that is why I seldom dine at any restaurant that features itself as Chinese Mexican Italian.

                                        Also, since I now live in a land-locked state, I usually reserve my seafood adventrures for the places that are near an ocean. Though, with Fed-X Overnight, I have had some good seafood inland. Guess I'm just fortunate to travel to ocean-sides most of the time.

                                        Still, I have a big thing agains artificial crab, or artificial anything.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                          I do love how we all have different ways of approaching things. When I see an oddball item on a menu like that, I almost always get it. My general thought is "huh, I wonder if this is the thing they do best and it was killing them to not have it on the menu?"

                                          I get that I'm risking whatever combination of time/money on it, but sometimes I end up finding the strangest things in the oddest places.

                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                            Interesting point - what do you do when you find an item in an ethnic restaurant from a different cuisine? Maybe worthy of a thread of its own.

                                            I think I would trust the cuisine-crossing dish more at a fine dining establishment than at a family-style joint. One of the best paellas I ever had was at Prezza, a high-end Italian restaurant in Boston.

                                        2. I don't think restaurants should be "required" to use anything, but they should be required to accurately disclose what they ARE using. You didn't say what they charged so it's hard to say if they should have charged less, but definitely the waitress should not have enthusiastically assured you that the nachos were made with real crabmeat when clearly they weren't, and you weren't wrong to return it.

                                          I usually ask what kind of crab meat (eg. snow, dungeness, Alaskan King, etc.) and that usually gets an accurate response (eg. Kamaboko) so you know what you're getting. Speaking for myself I hate japanese fish cakes so I never order oden, I'd rather eat fish unprocessed, but I know lots of people who love it. I also don't mind crab pollock in california sushi rolls, lots of sushi menus describe it as crab but I never expect crabmeat (it's great the few times I get it).

                                          1. I have lived in the Northwest my entire life and grew up on Dungenesse crab. In my household there is no suitable application for "Krab" period. None whatsoever

                                            1. This happened to me in a Mexican restaurant a couple of months ago. While having dinner with DH, I decided to order something different, and a plate of seafood tacos with a creamy sour cream sauce seemed like a nice change of pace. The waitress enthusiastically recommended it when I asked if it was a good thing to try, saying it was the "best thing on the menu." Well, when they arrived, the shrimp and scallops were genuine, but the "Krab" was a complete turnoff to me. I know, I know -- there are plenty of threads on these boards that say that fake crab is a delicacy in some cuisines, but in my book -- it is just a cheap imitation, and I thought that the restaurant was out of line to use it. I would rather have seen them use a less expensive ingredient than a fake crab leg. Shame on them.