What is the origin of California roll?
Indeed, this type of sushi called uramaki (maki with rice on the outside) was invented by a Japanese chef based in Los Angeles. Even if there is a lot of controversy about its origins, it looks like it is Ichiro Mashita, sushi chef at a restaurant downtown Los Angeles called Kaikan, who first created this maki in 1967 by substituting toro (fatty tuna) with avocado which almost had the same texture. He also reportedly prepared this sushi roll with rice on the outside because Americans were not used to eating seaweed (nori) and were grossed out by traditional maki.
What is a California roll?
A California roll is only one type of maki (or sushi roll). It must always be prepared with crab (or surimi), cucumber and avocado. If it contains other ingredients, then it’s a different kind of maki, but cannot be called a California roll.
History of sushi
Sushi is an ancient tradition that, against all odds, was invented in Southeast Asia by people living along the Mekong River and not by Japanese. Originally, rice was fermented and fish was wrapped in rice envelopes. This technique gave a distinct umami flavor to sushi. Vera told us everything about umami in her miso soup post. In contact with the rice, fish proteins would break down into amino acids. At the time, the fermented rice was discarded and not even eaten.
It was during the Muromachi period in Japan (1336-1573) that sushi as we know it was born. When vinegar began to be added to the rice to facilitate and accelerate the fermentation, modern sushi was born. Popular in Osaka, it then spread to the rest of Japan and finally reached Edo (now Tokyo) in the eighteenth century.
Modern sushi is also attributed to Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858) who would have created during the Edo period. Initially, sushi was even known Edomae zushi (sushi from Edo Bay).
What are the various types of sushi?
There are several types of sushi
– Chirashizushi: a bowl of rice topped with raw fish and vegetables
– Inarizushi: a pouch of fried tofu usually filled with rice only
– Makizushi: sushi that is traditionally wrapped in a sheet of nori (seaweed), but can also be wrapped in the soy paper, cucumber or thin omelette. California roll is a type of makizushi or maki with rice on the outside, which is not common in Japan. There are several types of makizushi such as temaki, a cone-shaped maki also known as hand roll
– Uramaki: this is the type of maki or sushi roll with rice on the outside. It is often garnished with sesame seeds or tobiko (flying fish roe). The first uramaki ever created was in fact the California roll. Uramaki is very unusual in Japan.
– Narezushi: the closest to the original sushi made with fermented rice
– Nigiruzuhsi: what is more commonly called “sushi” in the Western world. Nigiru consists of an oblong ball pressed rice with raw fish on it.
– Oshizushi: a block of pressed rice
I have prepared homemade sushi often before but this was the first time I made California rolls, as I generally prefer fish over surimi. If you make sushi with anything other than surimi, be careful to buy very fresh fish (the fresher fish is often sold at Japanese supermarkets). You can also freeze your fish, which would eliminate most of the potential germs.
Sushi, when well prepared with fresh ingredients is not dangerous and is just delicious. This California roll recipe is super easy to prepare. Learn how to make sushi at home and you will surely impress your friends and family!
- 6 cups sushi rice
- 6 cups water
- 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Sushi rice (see recipe below)
- 4 sheets nori (dried seaweed)
- 10 oz. surimi sticks
- 1 cucumber
- 1 avocado
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Gari (pickled ginger)
- Soy sauce
Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Stir the rice in water, pour and repeat 2-3 times or until the water runs clear.
Place rice and water in a saucepan and place over high heat.
Bring to a boil, uncovered.
Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Transfer the rice into a large wooden bowl or glass (not metal) and add the vinegar mixture.
Toss gently with a wooden or plastic spoon to coat each grain of rice with the vinegar mixture.
Let cool but do not refrigerate as it changes the texture of the rice.
Cut the avocado in half. Remove the core. Peel each half and cut ⅛-inch thin strips.
Cut the cucumber to the size of a sheet of nori. Cut in half lengthwise. Hollow out the center with a spoon. Cut thin sticks.
Cut the nori sheets in half.
Prepare a bowl of cold water and a clean damp cloth before you start making sushi.
Also prepare a bamboo mat wrapped with plastic wrap.
Place a half sheet of nori on the bamboo mat. Rinse your hands.
Take a ball of rice and spread it on the nori.
With your thumb, index and middle finger, push the rice to the outside to help spread over the entire surface of the sheet of seaweed.
Turn the nori over so that the rice is in contact with the plastic wrap.
Place avocado, surimi and cucumber stick, approximately one inch from the bottom of the nori sheet.
Roll the bamboo mat and press a little to form a cylinder.
Unroll the mat and roll the maki all the way this time. Press lightly as you roll the bamboo mat.
Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the sides of the maki.
Dip a sharp knife in water.
Cut the maki into 8 equal pieces.
Serve with gari (pickled ginger), wasabi and soy sauce.