Kanikama – Discover this Tasty Japanese Delicacy [with Recipe]

From the Land of the Rising Sun comes a culinary delight that has captivated the palates of food enthusiasts worldwide—Kanikama. This ingenious creation, crafted from surimi, has elegantly captured the essence of crab in a versatile and affordable form.

Kanikama, also known as imitation crab or crab stick, is more than just a substitute; it is an embodiment of Japan’s culinary innovation and artistry, transforming humble ingredients into a delicacy that has woven itself into the fabric of global cuisine.

Join me as we embark on an enthralling exploration of Kanikama’s origin, its journey from the shores of Japan to the plates of gourmands worldwide, and the diverse ways this remarkable ingredient has been embraced in sushi rolls, salads, and beyond.

Together, we will delve into the intricate process of creating Kanikama and learn how to make the most of this fascinating ingredient in your own culinary adventures. So, prepare your chopsticks and let your curiosity be your guide as we celebrate the art and allure of Kanikama, Japan’s surimi sensation.



What is Kanikama

Kanikama is simply artificial crab meat sticks. Many people question what fish exactly Kanikama is. Thus, to answer this, as the name suggests, Kanikama serves as a substitute for crab. Instead, it is made from surimi (fish paste).

This food item is also named imitation crab. It is commonly used in California sushi rolls.

The first step in the process is to remove fish bones and then smash them into a paste. It is only then that flavors and colors are added and molded into sticks, chips, or any other shape that is required.

On a usual basis, Kanikama comes without the crab, with the exception of a dash of crab extract being used to add flavor. It is commonly used in California sushi rolls.


Kanikama Origin and Curiosities

While Kani stands for “crab” in the Japanese language, kama is a short name given to kamaboko. It is a classic fishcake in Japan. Confused as one should be, there is mention of crab in the name despite fish being used in the making.

Now, let us take a quick glance over the history of this delicious food product. Even though there is a whole lot of argument over who created it, research tells us that this dish was invented in the middle of the 1970s by a Japanese company.

It was introduced to the world as a newer version of kamaboko. It had a quite similar sense of taste and surface in comparison to crab meat.

In the company of mayonnaise, these crab sticks make for a fantastic salad dish. Following this, imitation crab and this salad have made a name for themselves in every nook and cranny.

Over time, the use of kanikama was not only limited to the preparations of sushi but also in many other widely recognized art of dishes. The credit for the idea of making the alternative of mock crab meat or crab sticks first came in from Katsuichi Osaki.

Being the son of the owner of a seafood manufacturing company, he had great experience and exposure to running this type of business.

The birth of the idea took place when Katsuichi noticed the leftover rubbish of fish meat produced from a different manufactured article they had in the works back then.

This fish meat was then put in crab juice as part of an experiment. Results came in and he learned that the taste of fish meat was much similar to that of real crab meat. Later, food color was added to the product with a view to getting the exact crab shade.

Yes, many experts agree that the company took a huge risk back then to create a foodstuff like kanikama as it was far from suitable to the traditional agenda of the line of work or the business.

Seeing the testing as a success, they continued with this bold act and were called innovative at the same time.

With that being said, kanikama made it to their list of the most path-breaking products of their company. Demand for it increased quite instantly and so, it became a success overnight.


Kanikama Vs Surimi

You might have heard of these Japanese vocabularies before – Surimi and Kanikama. If not, do not worry, we are here to explain. These are different terms allotted to famously cooked fish meat in Japan. These products are so much in demand that they are shipped to western countries as well.

Let us take a closer look at what is the difference between Kanikama and Surimi.



The basic ingredients used in the making of Kanikama include wonderfully crushed white-colored fish, salt for taste, egg yolk, and crab extract as well as a sweetener.

For Surimi, it is a pulverized paste made from Alaskan Pollock. It is then mixed with sugar. Sometimes, even a sweetener is used. Surimi tends to have a brighter orange-red-like color.



Another difference can be seen in the origins of the two food kinds of stuff. It was a company in Japan that manufactured the first-ever Kanikama back in the year 1973. It took almost 3 years for this famous dish to reach the arms of the world.

Globally, Kanikama is also known as Krab Sticks, Ocean Sticks, Sea Legs, etc. It is so famous that it has taken the world by a toss.

Talking about the production of Surimi, a marine fish (Alaska pollock) has played a significant part here. This creature is an inhabitant found in the deep around the country. It is very helpful owing to its properties full of protein.



One huge point of distinction between the two is that kanikama is a paste while Surimi can be referred to as a food type. However, both have either meat or white fish in them.

In the case of surimi, it is necessary to turn the dead fish into a paste and then keep on molding it till it becomes the final product.

On the other hand, the paste to make kanikama has to be shaped in thin layers and dyed with red color. After dyeing it, it is filled in a vacuum plastic cover and baked. Cut in rods while it is still in the plastic bag and then freeze them.


Kanikama Salad Recipe

Cooking Time: It takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to prepare

Serves: 6 people



  • 8 Crab Sticks
  • Half cut Cucumber
  • Half cut Carrot
  • A packet of Glass Noodles
  • Black Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Scallion
  • Half a cup of Mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons of Lemon



  1. The first step in the cooking of kanikama salad is to blend a little bit of salt into the finely-chopped pieces of cucumber and carrots; doing this will help you to eradicate the overflowing amounts of water. This does not let the salad turn soggy when salad dressings are added. In addition to this, it will give the veggies a crunchy taste.
  2. Allow the veggies to mix well. You can use both your hands to do this.
  3. Once that is done, draw excess flowing water out of the veggies. Let the vegetables dry up a little bit.
  4. Then, cook the glass noodles by way of drenching them in hot boiling water. It is completely subjective about how long it takes for the noodles to thicken.
  5. Once it is cooked, drain out the excess water from them before adding the noodles to the Kani salad. In the case of the crab sticks, use both your hands to shave them into thin peelings. This process is sure to take a lot of time. If you want to fasten the process, all you have to do is apply pressure on your hands while rolling the sticks. This will lead to the falling of the sticks so you can easily shred them later.
  6. Add all the above-listed ingredients – crab sticks, vegetables, streamed glass noodles, black sesame seeds, scallions, and mayonnaise in a big vessel.
  7. Lastly, after all these steps have been taken, squeeze some lemon juice. About two teaspoons of that should be just enough to enrich the overall taste.
  8. .Mix well all the ingredients. Laying the salad on a bed of lettuce gives it an appealing and attractive look.
  9. Sprinkle it with scallions and a mix of white and black sesame seeds before serving. We are sure it will earn you a couple of extra points!


Tips to Make A Great Kanikama Salad

Many would agree that Kani salad comes under the category of being one of the most uncomplicated cooking recipes. You can easily make it at your home.

With some tips given below, it becomes easier to balance the overall outcome of the salad dressing. Consider these tips for a better cooking experience:


Use Japanese Mayonnaise

Japanese-inspired mayonnaise makes use of only the egg yolk, thus giving it a fine and rich texture. This variant does not beat whole eggs with oil and vinegar, but in its place, it uses rice vinegar and health-conscious oil.

One can find this mayo in a number of Asian grocery stores as well as off the web.


Make It Spicy

Nothing is better than a creamy and spicy Kani salad. What a delight! In order to add up spiciness to Kani salad, thin strips of a small green chili can bring favorable results.

Instead of directly using green chilies, one has an option to spice up the mayonnaise. This can be done by infusing a couple of teaspoons of highly spiced sauces.

Even a green chili paste can be added to the mayo dressing. All you have to do is mix it well together.


Choosing the Right Crab

Some people like to buy real crab meat. If you are one of those, there is a huge variety of fresh chunks of meat or cans readily available in the markets. You can get your preferred fake crab meat in an icebox that can be located in the ‘frozen items’ section.



A piece of cutlery like a fork can come in handy to scrap (peel) the crab sticks off its skin. Using fingers for this task can be a little bit challenging.

Serve immediately after the salad has been prepared. Do not let it get warm, otherwise, it can get spoilt.

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