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Zabar's fake lobster salad gets a made-up name to match

August 31, 2011 |  1:52 pm

Lobster salad

When is a lobster not a lobster?

When it’s a crawfish stuffed into a so-called lobster salad and sold for $16.95 a pound at Zabar’s, a  famous New York market that has quietly renamed its pricey item a "Zabster salad" after the store was busted for passing off faux crustaceans to hungry locals and tourists.

Zabster is the second name change for the salad since lobster-gate erupted in August, when a reporter -– not Woodward or Bernstein, but Doug MacCash of the New Orleans Times-Picayune paper -– revealed the truth inside the little plastic tubs on Zabar’s shelves.

“It was delicious, but the pink/orange tails seemed small and somehow familiar,” wrote MacCash, who had been vacationing in New York when he bought a container of the salad.

MacCash then read the label –- apparently one of the few people to do so since Zabar’s had begun selling the item as lobster salad many years earlier. The ingredients: crawfish, mayonnaise, celery, salt and sugar.

Mmmmmmmmm.

The scandal spread. The Daily News in Bangor, Maine, editorialized against fake fish. The Maine Lobster Council apparently got on the phone with Zabar's owner, Saul Zabar, and demanded a name change.

Zabar complied, using "Seafare Salad" for a while until the new name appeared this week. Zabar, who came clean after MacCash outed the salad's ingredients, admitted that crawfish -- also known as crayfish -- are the main ingredient of the salad. But he insists he wasn't trying to fool anyone.

After all, Zabar said in a New York radio interview: “Some kinds of crayfish are known locally as lobsters or crawdads or mudbugs.”

Whatever it's called, the salad's price remains the same: $16.95 per pound.

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-- Tina Susman in New York

Photo: The crawfish concoction formerly sold as lobster salad on the shelf at Zabar's. Credit: Tina Susman / Los Angeles Times

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