Here Spanish surimi poses as baby eels, which have been overfished (photo courtesy of M. Hirshfield).
What: A pulverized fish product that has been shaped, texturized, and flavored to resemble some other fish product. Gobal surimi production is estimated to be between 550,000 and 600,000 tonnes, with approximately half of all surimi made with Alaska pollock. Other species used for surimi include mackerels, hoki, blue whiting and cod.
When: According to Wikipedia, surimi was developed in East Asia 900 years ago. Japan industrialized the surimi process in the 1960s. Over the last decade, surimi has become increasingly popular as the fish it imitates have further declined.
Where: The largest surimi producers are the U.S., Thailand and Japan. The main surimi markets are Japan and Korea, although the U.S. and some EU countries, such as France, also consume substantial quantities of surimi.
How: Pulverizing, of course. Beyond that, this year the U.S. FDA caved to seafood lobbyists and they allowed ‘imitation crab’ (i.e., surimi) to drop the ‘imitation’. In surimi, I hear echoes of the woman who sued Kraft foods over the scanty amount of avocado in their guacamole.
Why: Because the things we would really like to eat, like real crab legs or real baby eels, are overfished and/or too expensive (duh). A half million tonnes of pulverized fish shaped into things humans really want to eat, just another shifting baseline.