California Rolls make a really good, light and satisfying meal. The ingredients are easy to find, they are simple to make, they are colourful and you will crave more. And that is not really a bad thing, because California Rolls are not generally bad for you.
This really is something you could get used to making.
I’m just like you. Just someone who has a craving for sushi.
And, I know how easy it is with the right equipment. And that would be a bamboo mat for rolling. Anything else you can improvise. In fact, you can improvise the mat as well. I show that in the pictures and video, but they are easy to find and inexpensive. The purpose is to give even pressure.
However, everything you need to make California Rolls, including the inexpensive rolling mats can often be found at larger grocery stores.
You can modify this easily by changing the filling ingredients. You can omit the mayonnaise, although if you are using soy sauce, it goes nicely. You could also use a spicy mayonnaise.
Using steamed carrots instead of surimi (fake crab legs, which work better in this dish than real crab, assuming it is canned). Green onion and canned salmon go well together (we are making non traditional sushi here, we are not sushi chefs -yet.)
Ingredient suggestions for Vegetable Sushi
Ingredient suggestions for Salmon salad Sushi
First a bit of info you might find handy as you pass around your tray of California Rolls.
Sushi is not raw fish. Sashimi is raw fish.
Sushi refers to the rice that has been seasoned with a sweet vinegar mixture that is topped or filled with cooked or raw ingredients.
The ingredients will not be raw and hidden or raw and disguised as cooked.
When I was living in Vancouver, BC, I was told that only men are sushi chefs. They don’t let women make sashimi sushi because their hands are warm and may spoil the food. I actually think that is sweet.
I don’t know if there is much symbolism in sushi, but sushi is a symbol of Japan.
If there is any symbolism in sushi, the one with the least amount of symbolism and history would be the California roll. Or “inside out roll”.
Depending on who you are talking to, it was created in California, by L.A. Chef Mashita, or in Vancouver by Chef Tojo to create sushi that would appeal to more people by rolling the seaweed on the inside and using ingredients familiar to North Americans.
Do they serve California Rolls in Japan? I honestly don’t know, but I’m going to guess, no. You probably won’t find a pepperoni stuffed crust extra cheese pizza in Naples either.
Short grain rice, not sweet rice is used. Sticky rice, although short grain rice is more sticky than long grain rice, it is not used either. “Sticky rice” is used in some sweet Asian desserts.
It is sometimes labeled as sushi rice, more correctly it is rice for sushi.
If you have Japanese short grain rice, you have the right thing, or California medium grain Calrose rice. Long grain rice will not work.
Cold rice or day old rice will not work well either. Ideally, it should be freshly made, then served. Rice, like bread, gets hard when refrigerated.
However, if you can’t finish your sushi, leftovers should be refrigerated of course.
When measuring rice here, it is a ratio. That is, use the same vessel to measure the rice as you will the water. In my recipe, I used one dry cup to measure both the water and the rice. I have used 1:1.5. That is why your elder’s recipes may call for one pink cup of this and one and two pink cups of that. The ratio would be 1:2.
Fun fact, a dry cup measuring cup, one you would use to level off flour, has a slightly smaller capacity than a liquid one cup measuring cup. That is why.
There are also cooked rice recipes that use more or less water. Some recipes call for soaking the rice first. That will take on some water, so the recipe will call for less water in the recipe.
We will use the ratio method in the vinegar seasoning as well.
The rice needs to be hot or the vinegar will not evaporate.
How to Make California Rolls and Variations
Printable version below
Prep Time – 30 minutes
Rice Cook Time – 20-40 minutes
For using a rice cooker
- 3 cups (540g) short grain rice
- 4½ cups water (using the same size cup), (858mL or 3⅝ liquid cups)
For using a pot on the stove
- 3 cups (530g) short grain rice
- 3¾ cups water, using the same cup as above (740mL or 3 liquid cups)
- 8 Tbsp. rice vinegar, white vinegar is fine
- 4 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Cucumber, preferably English, sliced in 6ths in long strips
- Avocado, just ripe – I always make sure that I have one more avocado than I think I will need, because you know, avocados. Slice lengthwise.
- Surimi, aka Sea legs, crab sticks, fake crab, pollock. Use the ones shaped like crab legs are easier to use than the flakes. Cut or tear in strips so there is some red colour on each piece. Canned real crab isn’t as tasty or as pretty. If you had some fresh crab legs, that might be good, but I would save it for the superior California Rolls.
- Toasted white or black sesame seeds
- Nori seaweed sheets, cut in half. At least 6 full sheets.
- Tobiko, Flying fish roe that has been brined -optional, which is red/orange and gives nice colour. You can find that in Asian stores, usually frozen. Thaw only what you need and you won’t need a lot.
- Mayonnaise -optional. Japanese mayo is called Kewpie and is in a squeeze bottle. You could just use regular mayo if you’d like. I put it in a ziploc bag and cut a corner off to squeeze out. The main difference is that Kewpie is made with rice vinegar.
- You can steam a carrot and use it instead of the surimi. Cut strips like the cucumber, or julienne it.
- Steam spinach, squeeze out the moisture and lay in strips.
- Canned salmon mixed with mayonnaise paired with green onion and cucumber
1. Rinse the rice about three times until the water is less cloudy. Swirl it with your hand or a whisk. The rice is heavy and you can easily pour off the water.
With a rice cooker
Drain as well as you can, or your water measurement will be off. I tilt the bowl and leave it that way for a few minutes.
2. Add the water and cook according to the rice cooker instructions.
Put the rice in a large pot with a tight fitting lid. Pour water over to cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Drain the rice as well as you can. Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature so it will be at a simmer. Cover and cook at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes without lifting the lid. When the time is up remove from the heat.
Try to make sure the rice doesn’t burn and the water doesn’t boil over. Reduce heat as needed and keep covered. Or follow rice bag instructions.
3. Once cooked, using either method, let the rice sit, covered for about 20 minutes.
4. Lift the rice up from the bottom and turn it over with a rice paddle or wooden spoon, getting some air in. Don’t stir it. If it is a bit brown on the bottom, it often is, remove what you can, just for the colour, it tastes fine. Better than fine and is often coveted by adults and children alike.
5. Keep warm until ready to add the seasoned vinegar.
Measure short grain rice
Drain rice well
I have used Tbsp as a measurement here because if you use a one quarter dry measuring cup and a one half liquid measuring cup you will have a bit too much vinegar. It’s one sugar to two vinegar.
6. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.
7. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 minute.
Rice vinegar is made from rice. It tastes a bit different. Milder, subtly sweet like apple juice. White vinegar, usually made from corn, will work, but that is what makes it different.
Bring vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil
Simmer for about a minute to reduce
8. Dump the hot rice into a large wide bowl, or a big plate. You will need room. You will also need a fan, or a fanner.
9. Pour most of the vinegar mixture evenly over the hot rice. I say most of it, because you may find it too much. You can add more, but not less. This needs to be done while the rice is hot.
10. Have someone who has a sturdy piece of cardboard, or a fan, and is good company come to help.
If you try to do it yourself, you will be doing a “rub your tummy, pat your head” type of thing.
One fans, while the other turns the rice over and over. Use a chopping motion more than a mashing to distribute the vinegar mixture. The vinegar will evaporate more as the rice becomes shiny and cools.
When it is no longer steaming hot, that is probably long enough.
Pour vinegar seasoning over hot rice. Gently turn the rice over, breaking up the rice without mashing to combine, while fanning to cool. The vinegar evaporates and the rice becomes shiny.
Prepare your fillings while the rice cools completely.
For the sesame seeds, heat a fry pan on medium heat and have a plate or bowl ready. Very carefully toast the sesame seeds, just for a minute or two. If you can smell them even a bit, put them on the plate or bowl to immediately stop them from overbrowning.
Try to keep your ingredients long
Slice cucumbers lengthwise in 6 or 8 strips
Surimi, fake crab, also known as sea legs
Ripe avocado sliced lengthwise
Toasted sesame seeds
Steam carrots, then slice if making a vegetable sushi
You will need a bowl of water to keep your fingers wet so the rice doesn’t stick too much. This saves you from running back and forth from the sink.
Cover the bamboo mat entirely in plastic wrap. You don’t have to use several layers, just make sure that they are well wrapped so the plastic stays on the mats.
1. Place a half sheet of nori on a mat. It does not matter too much here, because the nori is wrapped inside, but nori for sushi is shiny side down, so it would be on the outside.
Orange Tobiko, flying fish roe in bowl
Make sure the rice is no longer warm.
2. Put about one cup of rice on top and spread using your fingers that have been dipped into your prepared bowl of water.
3. Do not mash rice into nori, press just enough for the rice to stick to the nori. Spread it right to the edge of what will be the far long side, so you will get an invisible seal when you finish rolling. Currently, it would be the long side closest to you because you are going to flip it over.
For your first few rolls, be a bit sparse with the rice.
I don’t want you to be discouraged when you can’t roll it up and close it.
It also doesn’t need lots of rice, you should still be able to see the nori peeking through just a bit. Until you figure out what you can handle, less is more.
4. Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds. I don’t cover the whole thing, I just do a wide line across.
5. Using your hands, flip the whole thing over, rice side down. The rice is stuck to the nori, just turn it over.
Move it closer to the edge of the bamboo mat that is closest to you.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds
Hold two corners firmly and turn it over, rice side down
6. Bring the filling ingredients together tightly, but in nice lines.
7. Using your fingers and the mat begin to roll everything together. Tuck the ingredients in with your fingers as your thumbs bring the nori and rice up using the mat.
8. Keep lifting the mat as you go, (so you don’t roll the mat in). Keep rolling and lifting then pressing, not down but as to make a round roll, until you close the roll.
The mat allows even pressure across the roll.
Mayonnaise, and tobiko
Avocado, surimi, cucumber
Tuck in the fillings and fold it over
Roll with the mat and hold
Lift the mat and roll it over
Apply even, firm, but gentle pressure
If you find some open spots where the rice didn’t quite close up, take some rice and patch it up and roll it again. If your nori did not go all the way around and the roll does not close, remember that for the next one and fill it less or be a little more firm in your rolling. Be brave. It is a practice thing. You’re no sushi chef!- Yet.
9. As you finish each roll, place on non-stick baking parchment with some in between each roll as well so they don’t stick to each other.
Clean off the mat after each use. Just wipe it.
Tell tale sign of where the seal is. Patch with rice, re-roll and hold
This won’t close the roll if the ends haven’t met, it just hides the seam
If you find that the roll will not come together, try using one full sheet of nori, shiny side down, put the rice on, leaving about an inch of the nori free of rice at the top.
Do not flip. Lay the fillings along the bottom as for this recipe but on the rice side. Try rolling it up now.
Moisten the inch of nori that you left free of rice so it sticks to the roll.
It will be larger and the nori will be on the outside. This would be a Futomaki sushi, or large roll, and a more manageable one to make.
Vegetable roll, using full nori sheet on the outside
Using plastic wrap as a guide instead of the bamboo mat. Keep it tight
When you are near the end, wet the rice free edge to stick
Slightly less uniform due to uneven pressure but unnoticeable once cut.
10. Wet a very sharp knife. Some use a serrated knife. Cut the roll in half, then each half in 3. The cuts work best if the knife is clean and wet. Use a sawing motion.
California Rolls and Variations
California Rolls make a really good, light and satisfying meal.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rice cooking Time: 30 -40 minutes
Servings: 10 -12 people
Makes about 12 inside our rolls or half size rolls
Using a rice cooker
- 3 cups (540g) short grain rice.
- 4½ cups water (using the same size cup), (858mL or 3⅝ liquid cups). It’s a ratio, one and a half liquid to one rice
For using a pot on the stove
- 3 cups (530g) short grain rice3¾ cups water, using the same cup as above (740mL or 3 liquid cups)
- 8 Tbsp. (116g) rice vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. (55g) sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Cucumber, preferably English, sliced in 6ths in long strips
- avocado, slice lengthwise
- Surimi aka Sea legs. Fake crab sticks. Cut or tear in strips
- Tobiko, flying fish roe. Optional
- Mayonnaise.-optional. Japanese mayo or regular mayo
- Toasted white or black sesame seeds
- Nori seaweed sheets, cut in half. At least 6 full sheets
Steam carrots and then cut strips like the cucumber, or julienne it and use it instead of the surimi.
Steamed spinach, cool completely and squeeze out the moisture and lay in strips.
You will also need
A bowl of water to keep your fingers wet so the rice doesn’t stick too much.
A very large shallow bowl, or serving plate to combine the rice.
Bamboo rolling mats covered in plastic wrap.
- Rinse the rice about 3 times until the water is less cloudy. Swirl it with your hand or a whisk. Drain well or your water measurement will be off.
- Add the water and cook according to the rice cooker instructions, or put all in a large pot, bring to a boil, then cover and lower temperature to medium low. Cook about 25 mins. making sure the rice doesn’t burn and the water doesn’t boil over. Reduce heat as needed and keep covered.
- Once cooked, let the rice sit covered for at least 15 minutes. Try not to lift the lid.
- Fluff it up with a rice paddle or wooden spoon.
- Keep warm until ready to add the seasoned vinegar.
- Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for about a minute.
- Dump rice into a very large wide bowl or plate. You are going to turn the rice with the sugar/vinegar mixture without mashing it. You will need room. You will also need a fan, or a fanner.
- Pour vinegar mixture over the hot rice.
- Have someone who is good company come to help. This may take a while. One fans, with the other turns the rice over and over. The vinegar will evaporate more as the rice becomes shiny and cools.
- Place a half sheet of nori on a mat.
- Put cooled rice on top and spread using your fingers that have been dipped into your prepared bowl of water.
- Do not mash rice into nori. Spread it right to the edges so you will get an invisible seal when you finish rolling. For your first few rolls, be sparse with the rice. I don’t want you to be discouraged when you can’t roll it up and close it. It also doesn’t need lots of rice, it needs some good rice, and until you figure out what you can handle, less is more.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Using your hands, flip the whole thing over, rice side down. Trust. Move it closer to the edge that is closest to you.
- Bring the filling ingredients together tightly, but in nice lines.
- Using your fingers and the mat begin to roll everything together.
- Keep lifting the mat as you go, (so you don’t roll the mat in). Keep rolling and lifting until you close the roll.
- As you finish each roll, place on non-stick baking parchment with some in between each roll as well so they don’t stick to each other.
- Wet a very sharp knife. Some use a serrated knife. Cut the roll in half, then each half in 3. The cuts work best if the knife is clean and wet.