Making your own fresh California rolls at home requires a few particular ingredients, including nori seaweed sheets, sushi rice, and kani (imitation crab) sticks, but is relatively easy and a fun kitchen project.
My primary credential, as well as motivation, to make my own sushi is that kosher sushi is expensive, and yet, not always the freshest. I also happen to have some sushi-loving children on my hands that can put away a decent number of rolls. On the other hand, kani sticks, or imitation crab (made from fish), are easy to find kosher, perfect for making classic California rolls, and one package will make a lot of sushi. (Look for kani either refrigerated, often next to the lox and/or fresh pasta, or frozen with the fish at the supermarket.) In my defense, I learned how to make sushi from Korean friends and a Japanese grandma (via the wonderful cookbook Let's Cook Japanese Food!).
This method can be used for any fillings you like, including all veg or tempura chicken. You don't need any special equipment, though sushi mats are handy and inexpensive. I got a two-pack (similar to this one) so I could use one for dairy (e.g., Philadelphia rolls) and one for meat (e.g., the aforementioned chicken tempura). You can make your rice on the stovetop, of course, or use a rice cooker (which I highly recommend).
This recipe will make 5 sushi rolls, enough to be worth the fuss but not enough to be annoying to roll or make tons of leftovers, which will be good for only a day or so. This amount will use half a standard package of nori.
Making sushi rice
Sushi rolls require a larger-than-it-would-seem amount of rice; here I recommend making 1 ½ cups of dry rice or 3 cups cooked. After cooking your rice, you'll toss it with a good bit of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. (Your sushi mat might come with a nice paddle for mixing the seasonings into the rice and spreading it onto the nori sheets.)
Making sushi rolls
After your rice is made and set aside to cool slightly, you can get to work prepping your vegetables. You'll want to slice your avocado thinly and your cucumber into long, thin slices. Since kani sticks usually come individually wrapped, you also want to unwrap five of them so you have all your components ready to go.
To make the rolls, spread a layer of rice over most of the nori sheet, leaving a small amount of room along the far long end. Line up the filling ingredients in rows on top of the rice, taking up a little less than half the nori sheet. Begin rolling the sushi, compacting the roll after one turn, then continuing to roll it. If you have a sushi mat, use it to gently compress your finished roll, which should adhere to itself easily. (You can wet it with a bit of water if it doesn't.) Cut your sushi rolls using a sharp knife, which you'll probably have to wipe off a few times while slicing the batch.
Looking for more Asian favorites?
California Sushi Rolls (parve)
- sushi mat - optional
- Rice cooker, optional
- 1 ½ cups short-grain white sushi rice
- 1 ¾ cups water
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
For the sushi rolls:
- 5 sheets nori (toasted seaweed)
- 5 kani (imitation crab) sticks
- 1 large avocado
- 1 Persian cucumber
Make the sushi rice:
- Place the rice and water in a rice cooker or lidded pot. If using a rice cooker, set to "white rice." If cooking on the stovetop, bring to a boil over medium heat; cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the water has absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to steam, without uncovering, for another 15 minutes.
- Using a rice paddle or silicone spatula, work the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt into the cooked rice. Set aside to cool slightly.
Prepare the filling:
- Slice the avocado into slim slices. Slice the cucumber lengthwise into long, thin strips.
- Remove the kani sticks from their wrappers.
Assemble the sushi:
- Lay a sheet of nori on your sushi mat (if you don't have one, you can roll by hand). Spread with a thin layer of the seasoned rice.
- Layer the kani, cucumber, and avocado along a long edge of the sushi, taking up a little less than half of the nori, approximately.
- Begin rolling, using the sushi mat as an aid, compacting the roll after the first turn. Continue to roll up and gently tighten inside the sushi mat.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the sushi rolls, stopping to clean off the knife as needed.