Eight Stretching Tips:

How to Make California Rolls

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

If you enjoy California rolls but haven't ventured to make them at home, may this pictorial serve as a helpful guide. We enjoy our California rolls with avocado and cucumber - combine these fresh fruits with lightly seasoned rice, and you have the perfect mix of creamy, cool, and tangy. Absolutely mouthwatering, especially when dipped in my mom's secret dipping sauce.

To be clear, this is what you'll be creating:

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To make California rolls, it helps to have a sushi rolling mat. Here's the bamboo version that we use in our kitchen:

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You can find this type of bamboo sushi rolling mat at most Asian foods stores, or at Amazon here:

Bamboo Sushi Mat with Paddle

You'll also need sheets of roasted seaweed, which are available at Korean and other Asian grocery stores.

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Look for unsalted, roasted nori seaweed. If you go searching for this at your local Korean market, you can ask for "kim that's used to make kim bap." Kim means seaweed, and bap means rice. The "k" in kim sounds like "ghee."

Sushi and California rolls are typically served with a dipping sauce made by mixing soy sauce with a green paste called wasabi (Japanese horseradish).

Recently, my mom came up with the idea of substituting wasabi with Dijon mustard, which gives you a nice hint of spiciness, but not so much heat that kids and those with highly sensitive palates can't enjoy it.

Just combine one tablespoon of Dijon mustard with about three or four tablespoons of soy sauce and give it a quick whisk.

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Trust me on this one, it's definitely worth a try.

Now onto the rolls.

It's best to use sushi rice, which is typically called "calrose" rice. Put about three cups of cooked sushi rice in a large casserole dish or mixing bowl. Add a full tablespoon of sesame oil, a couple of pinches of sea salt, and mix well.

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For the record, sushi that's served up in restaurants is typically made with more vinegar and sugar than you might guess. You can add a few drops of your rice wine vinegar of choice, but with the Dijon soy sauce dipping sauce waiting for you, I would recommend forgetting about adding anything more to your rice.

To minimize mess, we like to place our sushi rolling mat on a cutting board before we do any rolling.

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Center a sheet of seaweed on your rolling mat.

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If you don't have a rolling mat, you can always use a sheet of saran wrap instead, though a bamboo mat definitely makes for an easier job of sushi rolling.

Be sure to give your lightly seasoned rice at least ten to fifteen minutes to cool down - you don't want to add it to your sheets of seaweed while it's steaming hot, as this will wilt your seaweed.

Dip clean fingertips into a bowl of water, then use your hands to spread a layer of rice on your sheet of seaweed - it should look something like this when you're done:

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Please note that this is no easy task. The rice is naturally sticky, and though the water on your fingers will help you spread the rice out, go into this step knowing that even those who roll sushi for a living acknowledge that this can be a frustrating task.

It doesn't really matter if things don't look great at this point. Once everything is rolled up and cut into bite-size rounds, it'll all look beautiful.

Please also note that the rice needs to be spread right out close to the borders of your sheet of seaweed, unlike going just about half or three-quarters of the way when you make regular sushi rolls.

Time to prepare avocado and cucumber slices. Again, don't worry too much about how things look at this point, as everything looks much better when sliced up and served on a plate.

Cut an avocado in half, use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh in one piece if possible, then slice into quarter inch strips.

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Cut your cucumbers into quarters lengthwise, then slice off the inner portion from each quarter to remove the seeds and juicy flesh surrounding the seeds.

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If you don't remove the seeds and juicy inner pulp, your rolls will get a bit mushy.

Use a knife to slice your de-seeded cucumber quarters into slices. If you cut diagonally, you'll end up with strips that look something like this:

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If you enjoy sesame seeds, sprinkle a small handful on your rice before you start rolling.

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Now place a layer of plastic wrap over everything. Your plastic wrap should be about the size of your bamboo mat, or even just a little larger.

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Next, slide the palm of one hand under the center of your bamboo mat, place your other palm over the center of your plastic wrap, then swiftly and gently turn the entire package upside down and let it come to a rest on your working surface.

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Lift your bamboo mat to reveal your sheet of seaweed, which should now be resting on the layer of plastic wrap with your rice stuck to the underside of your seaweed.

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Now slide your bamboo mat under your layer of plastic wrap.

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Line a few avocado slices down the center of your sheet of seaweed, perpendicular to the direction in which you'll be rolling.

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Then a layer of your cucumber slices.

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This is what it should look like from your perspective just before rolling:

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Now for the part that requires a little bit of skill and experience. Lift the side of the bamboo mat that's closest to you and roll your seaweed and rice over in a full circle, making sure to cover your avocado and cucumber.

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Use the pads of your fingers to tuck the end of your bamboo mat up against the circle of sushi that you've just created. The goal is to firm up this circle, to help it hold its form.

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Once your circle of avocado and cucumber is established, finish rolling up what remains of your sheet of sushi and rice. Apply gentle but firm pressure on your bamboo mat as you roll to encourage everything to stay in place.

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Now unroll your bamboo mat.

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Remove your layer of saran wrap.

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Dip the pads of the fingers of your non-cutting hand in a bowl of water and apply a thin line of water along your knife. Then, holding your California roll in place with your non-cutting hand, slice the roll into bite-size rounds. For this task, a sharp knife is your friend.

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Feel free to sprinkle a few more sesame seeds on top for added texture and calcium content (sesame seeds are, ounce for ounce, arguably nature's most calcium-rich plant food).

And that's it. California rolls ready to enjoy with a Dijon soy sauce dip.

If you want to make some vegetable sushi rolls to serve alongside your California rolls, have a look at the following post:

How to Make Sushi

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