Imitation crab is steamed white fish with crab juice added for flavorings. A red food coloring is also added to mimic the appearance of boiled crab. Although the term is still widely used, they used to be called kani kamaboko or kanikama (crab fish cake), but the name was ruled out since it hardly contained any crab, and can mislead consumers. The imitation crab presently have the official name of kani fumi kamaboko(crab flavored fish cake).
Imitation crab is used for the California roll, and although it is not considered an expensive sushi roll, some care should be taken when choosing it. The types that have several fishcake thread bunched together (they break apart like string cheese) are the best tasting, since they imitate the muscle fibers of a crab leg. They should be very watery (due to added crab juice) as well.