Have you ever taken a bite out of a California roll and tasted a bit of crab in it? Well, the chances are you’re eating a tiny piece of sliced imitation crabmeat. This scrumptious piece of meat is sweet and tastes almost exactly like the real thing. However, you might be shocked to know that imitation crab contains absolutely no traces of real crab in it.
I have an overabundance of imitation crab stored in my freezer. While most of you will know his is a staple in sushi creations, I use it in a myriad of other dishes. For example, I’ve just had an excellent hotpot dinner with some fish cakes, thinly sliced beef, and imitation crabstick last week. I also use this ingredient as a topper for my fresh Thai papaya salad, and you can add it to sandwich spreads for a delightful seafood inspired sub.
Today, I am going to discuss how imitation crabmeat can be turned into a star dish. While this sounds like a tall order, there are actually various ways you can use it to create a fantastic lunch or dinner. But before we go into all of this, let me first give you a quick glimpse into the history of this unique and mysterious ingredient.
What Is Inside An Imitation Crabmeat?
Imitation crabmeat isn’t a very old invention. In fact, the first patented imitation crabmeat was produced in Kanikama, Japan, in the early 1970s. The company started doing imitation crab flakes first of all, and just a few years after its first inception, the company began distributing imitation crab sticks and flakes internationally, and their business has boomed ever since.
Have you ever notice that most imitation crab sticks are labeled as “krab sticks”, “ocean legs”, or “sea sticks”? Well, that is because imitation crabsticks cannot legally be called “crab sticks” in many parts of the world as they don’t contain any crab at all. Keep that little tidbit in mind, the next time you and your friends have a trivia party night.
In Japan, crabsticks are called “surimi”, which means “ground meat”. This is because imitation crabmeat is made from a variety of fishes that are ground up into a paste. Manufacturers then top it all off with some sodium, artificial flavorings, and starch. So, think of imitation crabmeat and crab sticks as the American hotdogs of the sea.
If you like to be healthy, remember that imitation crabmeat has less nutritional value than real crab meat, which is gluten-free and packs a lot of protein and potassium. So if you are a health buff, then you might consider getting the real deal.
How To Cook Imitation Crabmeat
1. Just Chill It
Creating a chilled imitation crabmeat recipe will open your dishes up to a whole new world of endless possibilities. If you don’t like playing with fire, or just do not want to use the stove today, then grab some imitation crabmeat and make yourself a chilled crabmeat spread.
Things you will need:
- Two large eggs.
- Two potatoes (diced).
- One tsp. of mayonnaise.
- 1 onion.
- A lemon.
- A tsp. of Worcestershire sauce.
- A big metal bowl.
- ¼ kilo of imitation crab.
Preparation: Grab your big metal bowl and a good wooden mixing spoon. Place the imitation crab inside the bowl and add the eggs and mayonnaise. Mix a little and add the diced potatoes and sliced onions. Then add the rest of the ingredients and squeeze some lemon juice into the mixture. Mix well and keep in the refrigerator for a few hours. Serve chilled.
- Pro Tip: This beautiful chilled imitation crabmeat salad is an excellent sandwich spread or canapé topper. I have also tried this recipe as a topper for my sliced apple appetizers, much to the delight of my guests.
2. Be Part Of The Steam Team!
Steaming is one of the healthiest methods of cooking around. So it is a big plus that steaming is also one of the easiest ways to cook imitation crabmeat. Best of all, the utensils you need are all stuff that you probably already have in your kitchen. Talk about maximum convenience for a tasty snack!
Things that you will need:
- A big steaming pot.
- Some drinkable water.
- As much imitation crab as you need.
Preparation: First, prepare your steaming pot. Next, pour in the drinkable water underneath and turn the stove on. Bear in mind that you only need a small amount of water when cooking this ingredient (about a cup or two should do fine). Imitation crab cooks quite quickly, and you might run the risk of overcooking if you pour in too much water.
Wait for at least 10-12 minutes if you are using frozen imitation crabmeat. If not, then 5-6 minutes should do fine. Be careful when opening the lid of the steamer, as it can get really hot.
- Pro Tip: Steamed imitation crabmeat is pretty tasty, but a dull looking dish, so spice it up by adding some steamed broccoli, and top that off with some toasted garlic, salt, and a bit of lemon juice.
3. Trust In Sauté
Sautéing might just be the tastiest way to prepare imitation crabmeat. It is also very simple and rewarding, and definitely ups the ante. So get those pans ready and turn the stove up because we are about to cook some faux crabmeat!
Things that you will need:
- 2 tbsp. of butter.
- Garlic (2 cloves, crushed).
- A non-stick frying pan.
- ¼ kilo of imitation crabmeat.
- Salt (depending on your preference).
- Spatula for cooking.
Procedure: Heat the pan lightly before putting in any ingredients. Once the pan is sufficiently hot, add the butter (you can add more if you desire). Using the spatula, spread the melted butter evenly into the base of the pan for a few seconds, so as not to burn the butter.
Next, add the crushed garlic and stir. Keep at it until the garlic is a golden brown color. Be extra careful not to burn the garlic as this can give it an undesirable bitter taste. Finally, add the imitation crab and gently stir it for about five minutes.
- Pro Tip: Imitation crabmeat is exceptionally fragile and breaks quickly, so don’t stir it too much when sautéing this dish. Also bear in mind my notes about burning the garlic and the butter. You need a good sense of timing to get this dish just right.
Imitation crabmeat is a dish that a lot of people don’t think a lot of, but this lovely ingredient adds another flavour dimension to your cooking, as well as being a cheap alternative to genuine crabmeat. While imitation crab doesn’t hold a candle to real crab, it is a worthy replacement for people with a tight budget.
I loved writing this article because culinary challenges are always a delight to tackle. There is no reason to think that imitation crabmeat is dull and boring. A little knowledge and a short trip to the kitchen can definitely spice up this humble ingredient.
Do you have imitation crabmeat stories? If so, please feel free to write to me in the space provided below. Now grab a pan and go get crabby!