Originating in Japan several centuries ago, surimi is a uniquely functional food ingredient made of fish proteins and used in surimi seafood products. Surimi consists of fish proteins that are refined through heading, gutting and mincing the fish, then washing, removing water, and freezing the remaining protein. Good quality surimi is odorless and has a creamy white appearance. Surimi has excellent gelling properties so that it can be formed into various shapes. The US is the leading country for the production of surimi. Alaska pollock is most often used followed by Pacific whiting in the manufacture of surimi.
Surimi seafood consists of unique seafood ingredients with flavor similar to that of naturally occurring crab, shrimp, lobster and other shellfish with added convenience, safety and versatility. Surimi seafood is formed by mixing various food ingredients and formed into various shapes before cooking and setting the gel structure of the final product. In manufacturing crab-flavored seafood made with surimi, shellfish flavors are added to give the food its recognizable character. Surimi seafood is vacuum-packed and pasteurized to destroy harmful bacteria (pathogens). Most retail products are both fat-free and low in cholesterol. They are often nutritionally enhanced with the inclusion of omega-3 oil. The development of crabstick in Japan in 1974-1975 was a cornerstone for the globalization of surimi seafood. The United States started to manufacture crabstick in 1981 and has its current market near 200 million pounds.