Basically, this is the stuff used in cheap Japanese restaurants and passed off as crab, lobster and shrimp. How is this possible? It’s made up of a processed fish paste (usually pollock or whiting) which is tinted (usually with Red #5 which comes from a beetle called Carmine), flavored and shaped to look like your favorite crustaceans.
Is it safe if you have a shellfish allergy? Not necessarily. Sometimes real shellfish is added to surimi to help the taste.
Any advantages? It’s got lots of protein and is low fat…that’s about it.
I stay away for many reasons: it’s over-processed, is loaded with sodium, AND it has less nutrients than the real stuff.
The good news is that when it is sold in markets it has to be labeled as “imitation”, the bad news is that cheap sushi joints will try to pass this stuff off as real. Do yourself a favor, ask before ordering…or do like I do (skip the cheap places and save up to go to reputable sushi restaurants on special occassions – cheap sushi is just not worth the trouble).