Q: "Surimi is a relatively cheap 'seafood' we like. Fresh fish is so expensive we rarely have it, although we frequently have tinned salmon, tuna and sardines. Is surimi a 'healthy' fish alternative for those of us on a budget?"
A: Kelsey Woodcock, nutritionist at the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, responds:
"Fish is an excellent source of protein, which is essential for building muscles, and can be a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Surimi, a fish substitute, contains around 40-45% fish flesh. Other ingredients include water, thickeners, sugar, salt, oil, flavouring, rice cooking wine and additives called humectants that help hold in the moisture.
Surimi contains similar levels of energy (kJ), water and fat as tuna and tarakihi, but it is lower in protein and higher in salt. As with tuna and tarakihi, it is considered a 'low-fat' option.
Surprisingly, a quick price comparison shows that in fact tinned tuna is the cheapest fish option, costing between 50 cents and up to $1 per 100g. Tinned salmon costs between $1 and $2.50 per 100g, whereas surimi from the deli costs around $1.10 per 100g. Fresh trevally was $1.60 and fresh tarakihi $2.10 per 100g when I checked.
Surimi is an okay fish alternative that can be popular with children, but as it has higher amounts of salt it may be wise to consume it in moderation. The tinned fish you also use is more suitable for frequent consumption."