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Here’s what’s really in surimi! (and no, it doesn’t contain crabs!)

Surimi is a food that fascinates and provokes debate: often perceived as an industrial product without authenticity, but it nevertheless comes from ancestral Japanese know-how and can surprise with its nutritional qualities.

We invite you to discover all the secrets of surimi, from its history to its production, including the economic and ecological issues that surround it.

You will know everything about this atypical food and will thus be able to better understand the reasons for its success and the controversies that surround it.

Surimi: a thousand-year history between tradition and modernity

If surimi is subject to many criticisms today, it should be noted that its history is long and fascinating.

To see more clearly, let’s first look at its origins and its evolution over time.

  1. Japanese roots : Surimi was born in Japan, where it is known as kamaboko since the twelfth century. By then, the Japanese had developed a technique for preserving fish that involved shredding, washing and pressing to remove water and impurities, then steaming or grilling it. This process made it possible to prepare a fish paste whose elastic texture and delicate flavor were much appreciated.
  2. An ancestral know-how : The surimi technique has been perfected over the centuries, thanks in particular to the progress made in the selection of fish and in the development of ever more varied recipes. Surimi has thus become a real culinary art in Japan, where it is both a symbol of sophistication and coziness. The Japanese consume it today in various forms, such as the famous one naruto (surimi rolls with a pink spiral) or chikuwa (grilled surimi sticks).
  3. The rise of surimi around the world : Surimi was introduced to the West in the 1960s, first in the United States and then in Europe. The agro-food industry quickly adopted this fish paste to turn it into a consumer product, often available in sticks that mimic the taste and texture of crab. This “industrial” surimi has been a real commercial success and is now consumed all over the world, although its quality and composition are sometimes far from traditional Japanese surimi.

The process of making surimi: ancestral techniques adapted to modern industry

Making surimi is a complex process that requires specific know-how.

To better understand the problems related to the quality of surimi, it is important to look at the different stages of its production.

  1. The selection of fish : Surimi is generally made from white-fleshed fish, such as whiting, hake or pollock. These species are selected for their firm and elastic texture, which makes it possible to obtain a homogeneous and pleasant fish paste in the mouth.
  2. grate and wash : The fish is first grated to obtain minced meat, which is then washed several times in cold water to remove impurities and bones. This step is essential to guarantee the quality of the surimi because it allows to obtain a clean and tasty fish paste.
  3. Protein concentration : The washed meat is then subjected to a protein concentration process, which consists of removing water and retaining soluble proteins. This step makes it possible to obtain a more compact and elastic fish paste, which will then be used to make the surimi.
  4. Adding ingredients : The fish paste is then mixed with various ingredients such as starch, egg white, vegetable oil and flavorings to give it a specific texture and taste. It is at this stage that the surimi can be flavored to mimic the taste of other seafood, such as crab or lobster. The surimi therefore does not contain crabs, only aromas!
  5. Shaping and baking : Finally, the surimi is shaped (often into sticks) and then cooked, usually steamed. This preparation helps to stabilize the fish paste and to obtain a finished product with a firm and elastic texture.

Economic and ecological issues related to surimi production

Surimi’s popularity is largely explained by the economic and ecological issues it raises.

In fact, the production of surimi makes it possible to use and improve less popular fish species while meeting a growing demand for cheap seafood products.

  • Optimum utilization of fishing resources : The production of surimi makes it possible to exploit fish species that are little consumed or undervalued, such as pollock or whiting. This helps to diversify sources of animal protein and reduce pressure on more popular fish stocks, such as cod or salmon.
  • A response to the increasing demand for seafood products : Surimi, thanks to its versatility and low cost, is an interesting alternative for consumers who want to eat fish without spending large sums of money. This partly explains the commercial success of surimi, especially in Western countries.
  • environmental issues : The production of surimi has also been criticized for its potential environmental impacts. In fact, the intensive fishing of certain fish species used for surimi can contribute to overfishing and degradation of marine ecosystems. In addition, the industrial production of surimi generates waste and polluting emissions, which can have harmful consequences for the environment and biodiversity.

The nutritional qualities of surimi: a food to rediscover

Despite the controversies surrounding surimi, it is important to emphasize that this food has undeniable nutritional qualities.

In fact, surimi is an interesting source of proteins, vitamins and minerals while being low in calories.

  • A supply of quality protein : Surimi is mainly composed of fish proteins, which are recognized for their high biological value. Surimi proteins are therefore well assimilated by the body and contribute to the growth and repair of tissues.
  • Essential vitamins and minerals : Surimi also contains B vitamins (including vitamin B12), as well as minerals such as phosphorus and selenium. These nutrients are essential for the proper functioning of the body and participate in many metabolic processes.
  • Low calorie and fat content : Surimi is a low-calorie food, with around 100 calories per serving. 100 grams. Plus, it’s relatively low in fat, making it a good choice for people concerned about their weight or cardiovascular health.
  • Cons to consider : However, surimi also has some nutritional drawbacks. It usually contains additives, such as starch, vegetable oil and flavorings, which may be less tolerated by some people or cause allergies. In addition, surimi is often high in salt, which can be a problem with excessive consumption or for people with high blood pressure.

Surimi is a food that deserves to be rediscovered and better understood. Behind the controversies and received ideas, it reveals a history rich in tradition and know-how, as well as undeniable nutritional qualities. While its industrial production raises legitimate environmental concerns, it remains an interesting resource that helps promote little-known fish species and diversify our diet. Provided you choose a quality surimi and do not abuse it, it can therefore find its place in a balanced and varied diet.

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