Japanese, Recipes, Seafood
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California Roll

From about December to April, it is Dungeness crab season in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. I usually eat my first boiled crab of the year simply cracked at the table and plain except for quick dip in apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar. It’s hard to resist–when it is in season the seafood section of supermarkets in this region feature large displays of freshly cooked crab on ice, ready to eat. It makes an effortless meal. Later in the season, I like to make dishes that feature crab. One of my favorites is California rolls since it is comfort food for me; they were the first type of sushi that I tried, and I ate them often when I was a teenager before I would try raw fish.

Source: “Classic California Roll”, “Master Recipe for Sushi Rice”, and “Sushi Vinegar Dressing” from “The Sushi Experience” by Hiroko Shimbo.

California Roll

  • Servings: Makes 4 rolls (8 pieces per roll)
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  • 1 Dungeness crab, freshly cooked, about 1.5 lbs uncleaned (about 0.8 lbs of cleaned meat) or substitute another type of freshly cooked crab
  • sushi rice made from 2 rice cup measures of raw rice (1.5 cups raw rice) = 4 cups of lightly packed cooked rice
  • 4 sheets of nori, preferably an extra crispy type (some packages have crispiness indicators)
  • 1 small cucumber, preferably seedless
  • (optional) Sriracha mayonnaise (recipe below)
  • 2 smallavocados or 1 large avocado
  • (optional) 1 lemon
  • One or more of the following for coating the rolls: toasted brown sesame seeds (preferably unhulled), toasted black sesame seeds, tobiko (flying fish roe), aonori (seaweed powder), ito-katsuo (julienned bonito fish flakes)

Cook sushi rice according to this recipe.

While the rice is cooking, clean and remove all meat from the cooked crab. Set the meat in a bowl in the refrigerator to keep cool. Save the shells to make stock (crab stock is made the same way as shrimp stock).

Cut the cucumber in half. Remove seeds, if any. If the cucumber is as long as the longest side of your nori sheet, then cut the cucumber into four long strips, that is about 1/4 inch wide and are as long as your nori. Otherwise cut enough cucumber strips to create 4 rows which are as wide as your nori (e.g. if the strips are about half as long as your nori, then cut 8 strips).

Half the avocado, remove the seed, and use a spoon to scoop it out of its skin. Optionally squeeze some lemon juice over to help keep it green. Cut into slices about 1/8 inch thick.

Wrap the sushi rolling mat in plastic. Since this is an inside-out roll the rice will be rolled on the outside of the mat; the plastic prevents the rice from sticking.

You can use 1/2 sheets, 3/4 sheets, or a full sheet. The rolls will be easier to close if you use a bigger sheet, but they will also be bigger. Place the nori shiny side down on the mat.

Coat all but the top 1/2 inch of the nori with sushi rice, and then cover the rice with one or more of the ingredients for coating the outside of the roll to make it not stick. Flip the nori over to make an inside-out roll. After you flip the nori over, make sure that the uncoated edge of nori underneath is located at the edge closest to you (so you will begin rolling from edge which has no rice on either side and end with the edge coated in rice). The bottom edge of the nori should be lined up with the edge of the mat (this makes it easier to begin wrapping).

Lay a single row of cucumber across the nori, about 1/4 of the way from the bottom. Lay crab next to the cucumber, and top with about 2 tsp of Sriracha mayonnaise. Lay a single row of avocado slices on top.

Roll the sushi using the mat as a guide. Slice into 8 pieces, with a slightly damp knife (clean the knife with a damp cloth after each cut to help prevent sticking).

I think these rolls are best when Sriracha mayonnaise is included in the roll. The sauce brings out the flavor of the crab, similar to how mayonnaise improves the taste of lobster in a lobster roll. Small amounts of Sriracha mayonnaise can be made by mixing equal amounts of Sriracha and Kewpie mayonnaise and optionally a few drops of toasted sesame oil (taste and add more Sriracha or mayonnaise as necessary).

Sriracha mayonnaise


  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • (optional) a few drops of toasted sesame oil

Mix all ingredients. Taste and add more Sriracha or mayonnaise as necessary.

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