Imitation Crab Is A Relatively New Fishy Invention

As the name implies, imitation crab isn't actually made from crab (unless you count small bits of crab for flavoring). Instead, the meat is a whitefish paste known as surimi. Sometimes dubbed "krab," imitation crab is manufactured by combining the fish with other ingredients like salt, sugar, and even egg whites. The combination is mixed-up and shaped like food Play-Doh until it takes its crab meat-like shape.

Imitation crab is a relatively new invention, having been developed in Japan by Sugiyo Co. in the 1970s. According to one popularized theory, Sugiyo discovered imitation crab meat after attempting to manufacture artificial jellyfish. Getting hungry yet? Whatever the case, demand for the food item quickly spread outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. 

The fish used to create this "crab" product typically include Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, or haddock. While eating fish paste may not sound appetizing, imitation crab proved to be a popular product with the public when it arrived in grocery stores in the 1970s. Imitation crab is now used or incorporated into a variety of seafood dishes such as sushi, seafood salad, crab rangoon, and crab cakes.

Health benefits: real versus imitation crab

How healthy is imitation crab, and how does it stack up to the real thing? According to Healthline, it's sometimes called "the hot dog of the sea" due its hybrid mix of ingredients, and if you are thinking that nickname doesn't bode well for its nutritional benefits, you would be correct. 

Real crab contains significantly more protein and provides a greater source of vitamins and minerals such as B12, selenium, and zinc than imitation crab does. Since imitation crab is processed, it loses out on many of the vitamin and mineral benefits of the genuine article. However, imitation crab does have less sodium than real crab, though it still comprises a high amount of the daily total.

Should you decide to introduce imitation crab into your culinary repertoire, consider avoiding these big mistakes everyone makes with imitation crab. For one, you may want to avoid it if you're on a ketogenic diet. When it comes to cooking, imitation crab can be versatile. You can even use it as a pizza topping or think outside the shell (inside the shell?) and put it in tacos. It is fish, after all, which means you can legitimately call it a fish taco, without having to add that "imitation" qualifier in front of it.