How to Cook Imitation Crab Meat: Things You Need to Get Started
Have you ever tried a California roll? If so, you’ll notice that in this delicious type of Westernized sushi, one of the ingredients that stand out is the orange-and-white seafood stick. In this post, let me show you a few ways on how to cook imitation crab meat, as well as the tools you’ll need that will let you easily whip up delicious dishes in no time.
This is imitation crab meat, and it’s an ingredient that you should check out if you haven’t yet! Widely popular in lots of fusion Japanese dishes, they’re extremely versatile, not to mention affordable and easy to prepare. Let's begin!
How to Cook Imitation Crab Meat: Things You Need to Know
Origin of Imitation Crab Meat
Imitation crab meat has a lot of different nicknames. Also referred to as “krab sticks,” ocean sticks, or seafood sticks, this is a type of processed seafood that originated in Japan in the 1970s.
The term “crab sticks” used to be widely used by manufacturers, but since there’s no actual crab meat in them, legal restrictions have prevented them from using the term.
What Is Imitation Crab Meat Made Of?
As the description suggests, it is not actually made of crab. It's rather composed of starch and pulverized fish—the Japanese call this "surimi" a type of paste or ground meat that’s used to mimic the texture of the crab or other shellfish.
It’s possible to consume imitation crab meat straight out of the pack, but where’s the fun in that? If you have time to cook, this versatile ingredient can go places! To get you started, here are some of the basic cooking methods that you must take note of.
Things You’ll Need
Non-Stick Frying Pan
Imitation crab meat is delicate and can easily fall apart if not handled properly. To make sure that your sticks stay intact, make sure that you use a non-stick pan for frying.
I was not surprised when I learned that a lot of people don’t know how to cook imitation crab meat--it’s quite unfamiliar to western households after all. When cooking these, you can opt for vegetable/plant-based oils like sunflower oil, canola oil, and soybean oil. If you prefer olive oil, pick the standard one and avoid extra virgin—this one has a lower smoke point, which means that it is much sensitive to high heat. Olive oil, as compared to its extra virgin variety, is much safer and healthier <as it avoids less oil>.
Three Basic Ingredients: Egg, Flour, and Bread Crumbs
These are the three simple things you need in order to up your imitation crab meat game. Before they go into the hot oil, you simply have to coat them with these two ingredients and voila—you’ve got yourself some crispy and delicious seafood sticks.
Take The Following Steps
- Step 1
- STEP 2
- STEP 3
- Step 4
Prepare The Ingredients
First, make sure that your imitation crab meat has been completely thawed. Cold meat is fine, but try to avoid frying them while still frozen.
Then, place each of the three ingredients in individual containers: one bowl for the beaten egg (this will serve as your egg wash), one plate for the flour, and one plate for the bread crumbs. Set aside.
Coat The Imitation Crab Sticks
First, coat each stick with flour, then carefully coat them using the egg wash. Finally, coat the sticks with the bread crumbs or panko and set aside.
Prepare Your Pan And Oil
First, set your stove to medium heat, and then put some oil in the pan. Make sure that the amount of oil does not cover the entire crab stick—a shallow fry is already sufficient for these types of food.
Put each coated imitation crab meat in the hot oil and fry them until they turn to a nice golden brown. Transfer them to a plate with a paper towel to get rid of excess oil.
If you’re not a fan of frying, or if you would like to make more guilt-free dishes, then this one is for you! The imitation crab meat steams beautifully, and here is how to do it.
Things You’ll Need
You have two main choices: an electric steamer and a bamboo steamer. You can get the former from any appliance store, and the latter in most Asian supermarkets or kitchen supply stores.
There’s very little difference between these two in terms of performance <although some argue that since bamboo absorbs moisture, less water drips on top of the food>). They, however, differ in price: an electric steamer would cost way more than a bamboo steamer.
You’ll need a pot if you’re working with the bamboo variety. Electric steamers already have their own steaming units, so all you need to do is plug it in
Take The Following Steps
- STEP 1
- STEP 2
- STEP 3
Set Up Your Steamer
After finding a pot where your bamboo steamer will fit snugly on top, fill it with about two to three inches of water and light up the stove to medium heat. Put your steamer with the imitation crab meat on top and cover.
If you’re using an electric steamer, simply turn on the device according to its requiredsettings, set the timer, and you’re good to go!
Check For Doneness.
Your imitation crab sticks should be ready in about five to ten minutes, but since imitation crab meats come in different shapes and sizes, don’t be afraid to check it mid-cooking for doneness. These sticks are technically already cooked, so there’s no chance of undercooking. Fool-proof!
Add To Different Dishes
You can already eat your imitation crab meat after steaming. You can dip it soy sauce or mayo, or simply eat it on its own—but they are simply too flexible to be limited to this!
So why not get creative and add it to salads, put some in pasta, stuff it in a sandwich, make your own California roll, and so on. Go crazy! There are simply so many imitation crab meat recipes out there—you can either trust Google or invent your own!
Avoid Spoilage! Only Get What You Need From The Pack
If you’re not going to use all of the sticks in the pack, it’s best that you only get what you need. Most imitation crab meat sticks are individually packed with thin plastic, so you should not have a difficult time separating them. Do not thaw all of them at once—returning thawed sticks to the freezer could lessen shelf life.
Add Texture By Frying One Side Of The Stick
Imitation crab meat already has a wonderful, crab/lobster like texture, but if you want another layer of flavors and/or a bit of crunch, you can fry one side of the stick until it turns golden brown.
Eat It As You Would The Real Thing
Remember that these sticks mimic actual crabs, so why not eat it as you would the real thing? Simply squeeze some lemon on it and have it with some delicate butter sauce! Not as lavish as the real thing, but hey, not bad either!
There You Have It!
That’s it! A few sure-fire ways on how to cook imitation crab meat, as well as all the basic things that will help you easily get started. The flexibility is simply inspiring—and using these methods myself; I continue to find new and exciting recipes. If this is your first time cooking with these sticks, good luck!
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! Let me know what you think in the comments below! Recipe ideas are more than welcome as well.