A California Roll is a type of roll sushi said to be invented in the 1960s in California. The filling is rolled wrapped with the nori (seaweed) sheet inside. So it is unique and kind of an inside out sushi roll. The California roll was created in the United States and reverse imported into Japan. Not many other types of sushi made their way back to Sushi country Japan. It was the Japanese sushi chef’s wisdom to introduce sushi to other nations who were not familiar with sushi and its ingredients such as the nori sheet.
What is California Roll?
California rolls are a type of sushi roll that was invented in California. It gained popularity over time and eventually made its way to Japan. It is known as California Maki in Japan. The original California roll seems a little different to what we see nowadays; Inside out rolled sushi with imitation crab meat, cucumber, avocado, mayonnaise with sesame seeds covering the outside.
Ingredients for California Roll
Nowadays a typical California roll consists of sushi rice, nori sheet, imitation crab meat, cucumber, avocado, mayonnaise and sesame seeds. They are rolled inside out which means sushi rice outside and nori sheet inside. I will explain the reason further down.
- Sushi Rice – You can learn how to make sushi rice with my detailed sushi rice recipe on how to make it perfect. Because it wraps outside of the sushi roll, therefore we don’t want to have mushy, soggy or dry rice which will not roll the sushi well.
- Nori Seaweed sheets – Cut 1/3 off and use 2/3 of it.
- Imitation crab meat – It is called “Kanikama” in Japanese and it is available from Japanese/Asian grocery stores. I bought mine from Aldi.
- Cucumber – I recommend using Japanese cucumber “Kyuri” or Lebanese cucumber. Read more about cucumber in the Asian Cucumber salad post.
- Avocado – was used in early prototype California rolls to substitute tuna offseason as its texture resembles the texture of tuna. Select avocados slightly soft to the touch and darker in colour.
- Mayonnaise – Japanese mayonnaise. Japanese mayonnaise is made from egg yolk only not from the whole egg.
- Sesame seeds – Some recipes call for Tobiko (flying fish roe), but sesame seeds are an easier ingredient to get.
Originally a California roll was made hand-rolled with fewer ingredients. The cucumber, mayonnaise and sesame seeds were added later. This rolling technique of sushi is called “Uramaki” in Japanese which means inside-out roll. Usually, sushi rolls are wrapped with nori seaweed sheets on the outside. However, California rolls have the nori sheet inside and sushi rice outside.
Why Roll it Inside Out?
Originally the California Roll was rolled the same as classic sushi roll; nori seaweed sheet outside. However, the visual presentation of the traditional style was altered because consumers in the USA, who were unfamiliar with sushi at the time, tended to strip the nori sheet wrapped outside of sushi roll. So this is how famous and popular sushi was born.
How to Roll Inside Out?
Here are the brief instructions for rolling sushi inside out.
- Start with a sheet of cling wrap. Place a sheet of cling wrap over a bamboo sushi rolling mat.
- Place a sheet of Nori Seaweed. Lay a sheet of nori seaweed on the cling wrap (Process photo 5).
- Put a cup of Sushi Rice over the Nori Seaweed sheet. Place a cup of sushi rice and spread it evenly and thinly with wet hands (Process photo 6, 7 & 8).
- Flip the nori seaweed and sushi rice over. Fold over the other half of the cling wrap. Hold the ends of the cling wrap together and flip it over( Process photo 10, 11 & 12).
- Place filling in the centre. As the photo indicates, layout the fillings in the centre of the nori sheet. Tips – Spread mayonnaise at the bottom so when you roll your hand will not get messy with mayonnaise (process photo 13 & 14).
- Roll it with the bamboo sushi rolling mat. Roll it in the same way as rolling Futomaki sushi with the bamboo sushi rolling mat (process photo 15&16).
Alternatively, you can use a sushi mold. You can purchase a cheap sushi mold from a shop like Daiso. I bought mine from Daiso.
2 Tips to Cut the Sushi Roll Beautifully
- Keep the cling wrap rolled over the sushi roll and cut it over the cling wrap. This way the rice grains will not stick to your hands.
- Use a sharp knife and wipe off the knife with a damp kitchen cloth every cut. We do this because the knife blade will not become sticky with the sushi rice and leave the cut surface clear.
Sides That Go With Sushi Rolls
A: Everything is cooked except the cucumber and avocado. California rolls typically roll imitation crab meat which is a type of fishcake. So it is not raw fish.
A: No. The imitation crab meat used as a filling contains gluten as does soy sauce if used as a dipping sauce. However, you can purchase gluten-free soy sauce.
A: No. It is not vegan because of the imitation crab meat. It is imitation but it is made from fish. However, it can be made vegan friendly if you replace the imitation crab meat.
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- a bamboo sushi rolling mat
- cling wrap
- 2 cups rice *1
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 piece Kombu kelp strip
- 1.8 cups water
- 5 Nori Seaweed sheets *2
- 6 imitation crab meat(Kanikama)
- 1 cucumber *3
- 1 small avocado
- 5 tsp Japanese mayonnaise *4
- 5 tsp White sesame seeds *5
Sushi Rice *6
- Wash the rice under running water a few times. Drain the water and place the rice in a rice cooker.
- Add the strip of Kombu kelp and set the rice cooker to cook the rice.
- While the rice is being cooked in the rice cooker, prepare the sushi rice vinegar.
- Combine all sushi vinegar ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.
- Heat the vinegar till all sugar and salt dissolve. Set it aside.
- When the rice is cooked, transfer the rice to a Hangiri (or a mixing bowl) and pour the rice vinegar over and combine rice and vinegar. Set it aside. *7
Rolling California Rolls
- Cut the imitation crab meat in half, lengthwise.
- Cut the cucumber – long matchstick like.
- Slice the avocado to similar size and shape of crab meat and cucumber.
- Place a sheet of cling wrap over a bamboo sushi rolling mat.
- Place a sheet of nori seaweed on the cling wrap.
- Place a cup of sushi rice and spread it evenly and thinly with wet hands.
- Fold over the other half of the cling wrap. Hold the ends of the cling wrap together and flip it over.
- Spread 1 tsp of mayonnaise on the centre. *8
- Layout imitation crab meat over the mayonnaise.
- Place cucumber and avocado on the both side of the crab meat.
- With both hands, pinch the edge of the bamboo sushi rolling mat and rest of the fingers holding down the fillings as you roll the mat.
- When you completely rolled it, give it a squeeze with your both hands.
- Slice the sushi roll into 6 pieces.
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