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When someone asks me to recommend what type of sushi is best for beginners, I always say California rolls. It serves as a perfect window for Americans to experience the joy of eating sushi without having to deal with raw fish, which may be intimidating.
Are California rolls cooked? Yes, it comprises of sushi rice on the outside and cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab meat inside. Also known as surimi in Japanese, imitation crab meat is not real crab but made from grounded meat of pollock fish. It also contains fillers and flavorings, cooked together to form delicious sticks.
Although the cucumber and avocado used in the sushi roll are raw, we primarily consider the sushi rice and fish part, which is imitation crab meat in this case. While many sushi experts call surimi ‘fake crab’, I believe this is a good way to introduce someone to sushi as it contains parts of cooked fish.
Although California Rolls initially started with cooked real crab meat salad, restaurants soon substituted it with surimi because it is relatively less expensive than the real thing. On the brighter side, the popularity of California rolls due to the close resemblance to real crab meat helps in preventing overfishing of real crabs.
Early California Roll Recipes
The California Roll has come a long way and evolved a lot from how it was initially invented. The early California roll recipes comprised of frozen king crab legs because surimi was not easily available outside Japan and importing was not convenient.
The other ingredients like mayo, cucumber, and sesame seeds were later added to the recipe to make it more enjoyable. The original or early California rolls were wrapped in the traditional style with Nori on the outside but the foreigners preferred to peel it off.
This led to the creation of the inside-out version that retained the same ingredients but changed its assembling process to hide the seaweed. Today, this is one of the most popular styles of sushi rolls you can find in restaurants. Read this article for more information – Why is a California Roll Not Sushi?
Surimi Dates Back To Hundreds Of Years
If you are hearing about imitation crab meat or surimi for the first time, don’t be mistaken to believe that it’s something new. It has existed for more than hundreds of years in Japan and forms an important part of Japanese food culture.
This imitation seafood contains the flesh of Pacific white fish or Alaska Pollock fish. The flesh runs through an intricate manufacturing process where it is mixed with fillers and turned into a gel. This gel is often used as a substitute for different types of seafood such as lobster and crab, based on the type of flavoring used.
In the 1960s, a Japanese chemist discovered the way to preserve surimi and give it a long life span. This kicked off a multi-billion surimi industry that is still thriving today. Most restaurants that claim to use crabs or lobsters in their rolls actually used the imitation version.
Why? Simply because it’s so cheap and readily available than the real thing. Plus, it is cooked so there’s no fear regarding the meat going bad. Surimi costs only about 20-30 cents per ounce while tuna or salmon fillets may cost 50-60 cents per ounce, and crab meat is much more expensive.
Imitation Crab Makes California Roll Popular
Although many people will think raw meat when talking about sushi, it is a fact that even today many people are scared of eating raw fish. Reasons could be many. Some people cannot stand the thought of eating meat that has not been cooked in any way and simply sliced out raw.
There are others who are scared of food poisoning and this is genuine unless you eat at a good restaurant or buy raw fish from a trusted fishmonger. Both these fears are nullified in the case of imitation crab sticks.
As it is made of cooked and processed meat, you don’t get the feeling of eating something that is raw. There’s also no fear of food poisoning or contamination. So, if you haven’t tried sushi yet and are afraid of raw fish, you must give California rolls a try.
Despite being called as imitation crab or fake crab, surimi is still popular and readily available in an online store like this or Asian grocery stores near you. It contains good nutritional value. The surimi paste contains low-fat content and high omega-3 which is separately added at the time of processing.
Analyzing Other Ingredients Used In California Rolls
California rolls contain almost all the ingredients that you can otherwise find in a traditional roll – sushi rice, cucumber, avocado, and Nori. So, if you are still wondering ‘are California rolls cooked’, here’s a breakdown of the other ingredients.
The short-grain Japanese sushi rice is thoroughly cooked and seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt. To find step-by-step instructions on how to cook sushi rice in a cooker or pot, read this article.
Cucumber adds crunchiness to the roll while avocado adds that soft creamy effect. Cucumber can be cut into long strips and half of the avocado may be sliced to add in the roll. Remember to sprinkle some lemon juice on avocado to prevent it from turning brown.
Nori sheets are made from seaweed and it has a significant role in the evolution of California roll. History has it that when sushi was introduced in western countries, people did not have a liking for Nori. They did not like that greenish-black substance and usually peeled it off before eating sushi pieces.
As a result, a Japanese chef invented the inside-out sushi that hid the Nori inside a layer of rice. With this slight variation, more people started eating sushi as it no more looked gross and they enjoyed it whole without having to peel off anything.
Read this article to find out how to make California sushi roll at home – How to Make California Rolls at Home Easy?
Who is the creator of California roll?
There’s a debate on who created the California roll and two main contenders are Chef Hidekazu Tojo from Vancouver and chef Ken Seusa from Los Angeles. Most people believe Tojo to be the inventor of this popular delicacy with the objective of attracting foreign customers.
Did original California roll contain cooked crab meat?
Yes, the original roll was made using cooked crab meat salad, avocado, and cucumber. However, the real crab was slowly substituted by the fake or imitation crab because the real thing is expensive. Furthermore, the crab sticks are flavored in a way that beginners can’t tell whether they are eating surimi or real crab.
Do they have California rolls in Japan?
Yes, indeed. With the popularity of California rolls around the world, you can also find it on the menu in Japan. However, they don’t call it by that name. If you want to eat California roll, you will need to tell the chef that you want a specialty roll with avocado, cucumber, and tuna.
What is California roll called in Japanese?
This is the inside-out sushi roll variety that is known as uramaki because it has rice on the outside and Nori hidden inside. The outer layer may be sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and garnished with masago.