California Rolls

YAY!!!!! My first time making sushi was not an epic failure!!! Well, a couple were weird looking, but the majority of the rolls turned out FANFLIPPINGTASTIC!

nailed it

The first time I had California Rolls, years ago, I hated it. The flavors made me want to gag! Then came the night I met Kieran’s family for the first time….we tried getting dinner at this quaint Italian joint, but it was booked up, so we needed another option for dinner. Next door to the Italian place was a sushi restaurant. Kieran’s entire family enjoyed sushi…so I put on a brave face and agreed to try it again.

I don’t know what happened between the first time I had California Rolls, and the time with Kieran’s family, perhaps the quality of the food was better, or my tastes had grown up, but I REALLY enjoyed the rolls that time! That experience lit a “sushi fire” in me and I started to crave sushi on a regular basis. Over the years I’ve grown bolder and enjoy everything from your basic rolls to Sashimi. However, whenever I eat sushi, I have to get at least ONE California Roll to complete my experience.

Making sushi for the first time was a lot of fun, but be prepared to spend a couple of hours making it, until you get enough practice to go faster! I tried to multitask my time the best I could. For example, while the rice was cooking, I cut up my vegetables. I used a mandolin slicer to cut my cucumber which is a HUGE time saver! I used the julienne blade on the smallest setting which worked out OK, but next time I will make the julienne slices a bit bigger. I toasted my sesame seeds the day before so I wouldn’t have to toast them on the same day. I’m not certain, but imagine you can buy toasted sesame seeds in the stores now. Definitely purchase a sushi rolling mat! They are inexpensive and really easy to find!

I somehow missed the fact this recipe calls for cutting the nori seaweed sheet in half. I used the entire sheet. Even though mine tasted just fine, it seemed like a lot of rice and little filling. I will go with Nastasha’s method next time! Please visit her site (link above) to see her pictures! When I make this recipe again, I will follow her method and update my photos too!

I’m really happy I was brave enough to attempt sushi, you’ll see some notes from me below, where I could have improved, but overall it was a fun experience and it left me craving to make more sushi!

Ingredients for Sushi Rice

  • 2 cups Japanese short or medium grain rice
  • 2½ cups cold water
  • 5 Tbsp Sushi Vinegar
  • (Make your own sushi vinegar by combining the following 3 ingredients and dissolving them together over low heat on the stove, then let the mixture cool):
  • 4 Tbsp Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
  • Ingredients for California Rolls
  • ½ lb Imitation crab meat (p.s. the “log” shaped crab meat is the easiest to work with)
  • 1 Avocado, ripe but still firm
  • ½ medium cucumber, peeled and sliced into long julienne strips
  • Toasted Nori Seaweed
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • A sushi rolling mat ($2 at Cost Plus World Market) If you don’t have a sushi mat, try using parchment paper instead.

Directions for Sushi Rice

  1. Wash the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. If you have a rice maker (way easier!), follow rice maker instructions and cook on the white rice setting then skip to step #4
  2. Put drained rice in a heavy sauce-pan and add 2 cups cold water. Cover tightly and set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to medium and let cook covered until all the water is absorbed (7-8 min). Do not remove the cover to check, but listen for the bubbling to stop.
  3. Once you hear a faint hissing sound, reduce the heat to very low and cook another 6 min. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 min covered. This is the basic white rice eaten with japanese meals.
  4. Transfer the hot rice to a large bowl and break it up to get rid of all the hot clumps.
  5. Let the rice cool down until it is just warm, then stir in your cooled sushi vinegar

Directions on how to Assemble your California Rolls

  1. Wrap your sushi matt in plastic wrap before using it (this makes it re-useable and you don’t even have to wash it!).
  2. Fold the pieces of nori in half to split them.
  3. Toast your sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden. Slice up your veggies.
  4. Spread a generous handful of sushi rice onto the ½ sheet of nori. Use your WET FINGER TIPS (keeping wetting your hands to prevent sticking) to spread the rice evenly over the entire surface of the nori. (NOTE, a lot of tutorials say to leave approx half inch, at the bottom of the nori, without rice, so the roll seals better)

(I did not snap my nori in half, but next time I will, we ended up with a TON of sushi we couldn’t finish eating)

(I used way too much rice, I should not have covered the entire nori with rice)

  1. Flip the rice covered piece of nori over so the rice is facing down (this way, your rice will be on the outside). Place your fillings across the center of your rice in the middle of the sheet (don’t overfill or the roll won’t seal).

(I could have used more filling, what you see here wasn’t quite enough.)

  1. Start rolling away from you using your matt to firmly keep the roll in place. Apply some pressure to make a tight roll. If its not tight enough, it will be difficult to cut. Once the roll is complete, sprinkle the roll with toasted sesame seeds while it is still on the mat so you can turn it easily.

*I don’t have a photo for rolling the sushi, but here is a 3 minute video from youtube that does a good tutorial. Click here.

  1. Run your sharp knife through a damp paper towel before slicing so the rice won’t stick as much. Cut the roll in half, then line the two halves up and slice even 1-inch rings. I have found that it slices easier when you slice quickly. *Wipe your sharp knife with a damp towel before EVERY time you cut!!!

(I found that slowly sawing the knife back and forth, without putting pressure on the knife worked well to cut the sushi).

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