I'm curious about imitation crabmeat, [the kind used to make most] California rolls.
What is it made of? Someone told me that it's vegetarian?
How healthy (or unhealthy) is it?
-- Corinne Harris
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Practically all imitation crab meat (also known as surimi) is made by deboning and mincing Alaskan pollock -- an inexpensive, very mild-flavored fish -- and mixing it with a variety of other ingredients.
What ingredients, you ask?
Mainly sugar, oil, artificial and/or natural flavorings, and a variety of stabilizers and thickeners like egg whites and potato starch (to give it that chewy texture.)
It is certainly not vegetarian.
That said, there are vegetarian mock crab meats out there. These can be very hard to find even in specialty vegetarian stores, so your best bet is to look for online suppliers.
There are also some tofu-based recipes for "Do It Yourself" vegetarian crab meat.
From a nutritional standpoint, imitation crab meat contains half the protein, three times the carbohydrate, and approximately twice as much sodium as real crab meat.
Calorically, though, they are almost identical.