My family and I LOVE Japanese sushi. In fact, sushi is my all-time favourite food. California rolls are, by no means, our favourite roll, but they are the ones that we make at home the most often, because the ingredients are affordable and easy to prep. The first time I made California maki for my family, I couldn’t make the rolls quickly enough to keep up with the rate at which they were eating them. I finished that dinner feeling rushed, exhausted, and hungry! So I stopped making sushi for a long time after that. Luckily, one life-altering day, my then-boyfriend’s mom made us dinner by serving all of the ingredients for California rolls and allowing us to assemble our own hand rolls at the dinner table. It was genius! It had never occurred to me to make hand rolls before, because my family Never orders them from the restaurants! The best part is that the cook only has to prepare the individual components, which requires minimal cooking – perfect for weeknight and summer-time dinners. The guests have fun assembling their own hand rolls to their own taste. I’ve since done this countless times for myself, my family, and guests. It’s also makes for a great and easy food station at larger parties. If you don’t like artificial crab meat, I’ve done this using smoked salmon instead.
California Hand Roll Recipe
The amounts needed for the following ingredients depends on how many people you are planning to serve. If this is the main course, I suggest having enough for each person to make up to 5 hand rolls.
Japanese short-grain white rice
toasted seaweed sheets (nori) intended for making sushi, cut in half lengthwise using scissors
real or imitation crab meat
avocados that have just ripened and are not too soft to the touch
Japanese seasoned rice vinegar (or heat unseasoned rice vinegar with granulated white sugar and coarse sea salt to taste in a pot over medium heat until dissolved) Note: You could add more sugar to the seasoned rice vinegar to taste if desired.
soy sauce or reduced sodium soy sauce
Cook a pot of rice as per the package’s instructions. Once it is cooked, transfer it to a large and raised edge, heatproof plate. Gradually pour over the seasoned rice vinegar to taste, while gently mixing (not stirring) the rice with a spatula to incorporate. Try to use the spatula to lift the rice up and then flip it over; the intent is to separate the grains of rice and incorporate the rice vinegar gently. Allow the rice to cool to body temperature before serving.
Meanwhile, prepare all of the other ingredients. (Optional: Toast the seaweed sheets by passing them, front and back, briefly over a dry, heated frying pan over the stove. Allow them to cool completely prior to serving.) Separate the crab meat sticks/pieces and transfer them from the package to a serving dish. Personally, I like to rinse them off and drain them prior to use to remove some of the added sodium. Cut the English cucumber into 2 to 3 inch long, thin strips and plate them on a serving dish. Put soy sauce into small dipping bowls and provide wasabi for your guests. Finally, use a large, sharp knife to cut the avocado into thin wedges. Cut and plate the avocados last to prevent browning. Place the seaweed sheets, rice, crab meat, cucumber slices, and avocado wedges in the centre of the dinner table and allow your guests to assemble their own hand rolls to their liking. To keep your hand rolls from unraveling, use a small dab of rice like glue under the edge of the seaweed sheet. Also provide soy sauce (or reduced sodium soy sauce), wasabi, and dipping bowls for each guest.