What does imitation crab meat taste like?
May 26, 2007 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Does imitation crab meat actually taste good and what can I do with it?

I love crab, but I rarely eat it because it's too expensive and not easily available in my area. Does imitation crab meat taste pretty good? Does it taste like real crab meat? It probably doesn't taste exactly the same, but is it close enough? What are some tasty things to do with it?
posted by GardnerDB to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Imitation crab meat tastes quite good. Maybe not if you're just eating a big 'ol block of it, but if you have it mixed into something it gives it a delicious crabby flavor.

I find that it is good in a salad, or mixed into some kind of pasta salad type of dish. Delicious!
posted by Caper's Ghost at 1:15 PM on May 26, 2007

all of the stuff i've encountered so far is just fish, with some re food coloring on it, so it shouldn't be too bad
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:31 PM on May 26, 2007

I eat a lot of seafood, both cooked and raw (sushi/sashimi, of course). While I do like real crab, I will almost always pick the imitation stuff over the real thing. The imitation stuff is more mild, less 'from the sea' type flavor to it. I like eating it with crackers as a snack.
posted by ninjew at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2007

i like it by itself.
in small quantities.
it's great in a sushi set, for instance.
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2007

I love crab. I also love imitation crab meat. To me, imitation crab meat does not taste at all like crab. Of course, I am used to eating Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, which are about the closest thing to manna there are here on earth and there's no way any imitation product can come close to its sweet delicate flavor.

But imitation crab is good on its own. I like to make seafood salad with it (some im. crab, a teensy bit of mayo, some chopped shrimp, a little celery and a generous shake of Old Bay seasoning). I'm seconding Caper's Ghost on adding it to your favorite pasta salad. It's good on it's own as a light snack. It's low in calories and in fat.

My roommate once made a delicious hot "crab" dip with it using a recipe he found online. It was quite tasty.
posted by LeeJay at 1:59 PM on May 26, 2007

No, it's not as good, but it's really not all that bad either. As for things you can do, I would suggest maybe a krab salad (mayo, celery, etc). California rolls are also a good thing to try (wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people use the fake stuff for these anyway).
posted by Gilbert at 2:00 PM on May 26, 2007

Oh, as to what it tastes like, I'm going to disagree with ninjew here. To me, imitation crab has a bit of a stronger seafood flavor than crab (at least Blue crab) but it's not fishy at all. Where real crab is complex, imitation crab is a bit more one-note. It still has the sweet flavor of crab but it lacks depth. Hard to explain.
posted by LeeJay at 2:02 PM on May 26, 2007

It still has the sweet flavor of crab

Er, sorry, that came out wrong because it sounds like I'm saying that it has the SAME flavor as crab which I do not think it does. I simply meant that it has a sweetness to it, similar to crab.
posted by LeeJay at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2007

Imitation crab in spaghetti Alfredo.
posted by The White Hat at 2:15 PM on May 26, 2007

I've been making a faux ceviche kind of recipe lately with regular crab; it might actually be better with imitation crab.

The quick recipe: Mix crab with store-bought corn & black bean salsa, add fresh lime juice. Add hot sauce and pepper as needed. The slightly-more-involved-but-yummier recipe: mix crab with diced red peppers, red onion (or shallot, if you've got it), garlic, corn, diced jalapeno, fresh cilantro, hot sauce, a little salt and pepper, and fresh lime. Tomatoes could replace the red pepper (the red pepper was really a cadge because I didn't have any tomatoes). Garnish with fresh avocado, serve with tortilla chips.

It's a nice light alternative to cream cheese-based crab dip, which I absolutely love but can't justify eating without guests to help offset calories.
posted by jenh at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2007

I think this refers to surimi. Very tasty. I like it in stir fry, as it does a great job of absorbing flavor.

posted by zymurgy at 3:37 PM on May 26, 2007

Why don't you try it?
posted by mkultra at 3:40 PM on May 26, 2007

I don't think it tastes at all like the real thing, but I still like it, dipped in melted butter.
posted by tuffbunny at 3:55 PM on May 26, 2007

Yes, try it and decide for yourself! We like it, especially in salads and "crab" tacos.
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:07 PM on May 26, 2007

Cheap, low-fat, and actually quite yummy. I second seafood salad (good on crackers or in a sandwich), hot seafood dip (made with cream cheese, eaten with crusty bread), or in pasta salads. My mom used to wrap a stick of imitation crab up with some cheese and stick it in my lunch box as a kid. Sure, it doesn't taste just like crab, but it's still good.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:21 PM on May 26, 2007

I love crab. Imitation crab does not anything like Dungeness, Alaskan, or Maryland Blue crab which are the ones I've tasted.

It tends to be sweeter and saltier than crab, with a texture that's somewhere between lobster claw and slightly overcooked scallop. Frequently tasty, but brands vary tremendously. I've had some that had nasty metallic aftertaste, some that were more rubbery and less flavorful than a used tire, many that were too strongly "fishy" both in flavor and odor. But the variability of fake crab it is asset. Everyone can find one variety that pleases their particular palate.

It's usually made with pollack fish, plus egg white, food coloring, and some additives. As a crab substitute, it sucks. As a seafood flavor of its own that can fit into a wide range of dishes, it's worthwhile. But it pales in comparison to almost any fresh in-season "real" seafood.

Think of it as a pre-cooked food. A perfect last minute add-in to a soup, salad, or sauce. Not so good for sauteeing or frying. If you must apply heat, insulate with plenty of liquid otherwise it'll quickly dry into an ineible shriveled white leather.

My favorite is savory crepes filled with cheese sauce, minced celery, fake crab, and real shrimp. Top the crepes with lots of paprika, broil for about 30 seconds, serve hot. Yum.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2007

Immitation crab meat is sweet with a subtle fish taste to it that you're more likely to smell on your fingers when eating it with your bare hands than you are to taste it. The flesh has a nice feel to it and peels away in layers much like an onion does, but without being crumbly the way you'd expect other fish like salmon to fall apart. The flesh is firm and although moist it is not juicy and certainly not dry.

When compared to real crab meat, I find it tries to approximate the legs of king crab, while not coming close. Having said that, I quite enjoy it for what it is. I think a more interesting exercise would be to compare imitation crab meat to real pollack.
posted by furtive at 5:48 PM on May 26, 2007

I'd compare the peel-ability to more like a string cheese than an onion. It's sweet and not very crab-tasting, but it can be tasty when used in recipes such as crab rangoon (chop and mix imitation crab with cream cheese, fill wonton wrappers, fry).
posted by chowflap at 6:21 PM on May 26, 2007

I'm really curious as to how this question could come up - i.e., what prevents you from just going to the supermarket and tasting some? What's the context here?
posted by dmd at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2007

Put it in a salad and have it for lunch. Add lettuce, celery, carrot, corn, green beans and olives. Sort of a salade nicoise. Toss with pepper, oil and vinegar

When I was living in Milan I ate salads like this nearly every day at the cafe near my office in San Donato Milanese (only there, they call this stuff "polpa di granchio."
posted by charlesv at 6:53 PM on May 26, 2007

As a college student, I would boil ramen noodles from a package whose spices seemed appealing. While the noodles boiled, I'd fry the imitation crab meat in some olive oil and half the spices from the ramen package. Setting aside the fried meat, I'd then add more olive oil and the rest of the spices to the pan and fry the cooked, drained noodles. Yum!
posted by closetphilosopher at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2007

It makes a great nacho topping too. Krab and jack cheese over tortilla chips toasted in the oven for 10 minutes = yum.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:08 PM on May 26, 2007

It's delicious. You might try making a simple cucumber salad.. sliced cucumber, vinegar, and sesame oil with a little bit of shredded imitation crab on top.
posted by arianell at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2007

I like to fish crab and lobster and I enjoy this fake krab stuff also. Sometimes I will just take a half frozen stick of it and gnaw on it. (Bachelor cuisine) Or make a sandwich with lettuce, mayo, a little sliced onion and I am in heaven. I think when I get it from an asian market it seems a little better to me than what I get from the supermarket but that may just be a local peculiarity. It is OK in a soylent green sort of way (made from pollock) but I would not use it as a substitute for real crab but rather a distinct other seafoodish thingy
posted by Iron Rat at 11:00 PM on May 26, 2007

From my experience, fake crab tastes nothing like crab. It tastes like bland fish. Its texture isn't even remotely similar to actual crabmeat - crabmeat is somewhat stringy, and fake crab is smooth and processed.

Incidentally, I've always wondered how restaurants get away with calling fake crabmeat "crab," when it, in fact is actually "fish slurry." I mean, nobody serves up ground turkey and calls it "steak." How come it's apparently okay to fudge it with crab?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2007

Basically, your question boils down to "Will I like the taste of this food I've never tried?". Go try it already.
posted by yohko at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2007

Response by poster: I'm really excited to try it now. The reason I have never bought any was because I'm always afraid to try new things. I saw a big slab o' fake crab meat at the store and thought it looked strange. I'm excited to try it now. I guess I'll try the frozen stuff instead of the vacuum sealed slab in the fish department.
posted by GardnerDB at 10:22 AM on May 27, 2007

As a kid I used to love it simply as a snack. It was like a sweet fishy crabby string cheese to me. I found that the flavors varied depending on brand though. Definitely it was a sweet, fishy crabbiness, but some brands were more fishy while some were more "crabby." I found that Korean brands were sometimes a bit more chewy and didn't fall apart as easy as some American-made ones I've had. Sweetness definitely varied as well. But yea, I wouldn't treat it as a "crab replacement" but more like a seafood alternative really. Sorta like a boca burger compared to a real beef burger. Like some of the flavors are there but not exactly?

You can do lots with it. Like the above salad suggestion or ramen. I can see it being used in those sandwich "salads," or cold pasta salads or just the reguar with lettuce and veggies type of salad.. It gets used in Korean food such as a kimbab (or just in sushi) filler or even in jabchae if you don't want to use beef in it.

Double P had a recipe to make a sort of eggdrop soup with it:

First you put some imitation crabmeat in a bowl with 2 cups of water to help break it apart, but also because the water can act as a sort of "broth."

Stirfry a bit of minced garlic and scallions then add the reserved water and bring to a boil. Add veggies (in this case carrots, corn and enoki mushrooms, but you can probably use what you want or have) and the crabmeat and let it cook a bit.

Add in a beaten egg and stir the soup until the egg cooks. Add a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up a little bit, then flavor with salt. Serve in bowl. As a finishing touch add a couple of drops of sesame oil into your bowl of soup.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:27 AM on May 27, 2007

Response by poster: OK. I bought the "crab" meat and really like it. I was watching the Food Network this morning and Giada DeLaurentiis made this soup. I decided to throw in some of the crab and it was delish. I love the stuff. Thanks for your encouragement everybody!
posted by GardnerDB at 9:00 PM on May 27, 2007

Here's my recipe for crab pancakes (not really pancakes as they are mostly made of egg). My mom used to make them quite often for family functions and I crave them once in a while.
posted by like_neon at 9:08 AM on May 31, 2007

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