6 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups uncooked Japanese short or medium grain rice
4 cups water
5 sheets or sushi nori (seaweed in big squares)*
1 large cucumber
2 to 3 avocados
Fresh lemon juice
Cooked snow crab meat or imitation crab sticks**
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
* Sheets of thin seaweed which is pressed and dried. As a general rule of thumb – good Nori is very dark green, almost black in color.
** Imitation crab sticks are the easiest to use. They can by found in Japanese food stores.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Heat mixture just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.
Wash rice, stirring with your hand, until water runs clear. Place rice in a saucepan with water; soak 30 minutes. Drain rice in colander and transfer to a heavy pot or rice cooker; add 4 cups water. If you don't have a rice cooker, place rice and water into a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave pan, covered, for 15 additional minutes.
Wash, peel, and seed cucumber. Slice in half lengthwise, then cut into long, slender strips. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, then remove the pit; cut each section in half again (lengthwise), and carefully remove the peel. Cut the section in long slender strips. Sprinkle the sliced avocado with lemon juice to keep from discoloring. If you are using snow, crab, remove the crab meat from the thicker portion of the legs and cut in half lengthwise. If you are using imitation crab sticks, remove the plastic wrapping and cut each in half lengthwise. Place the cucumber slices, avocado slice, and crab slices on a plate; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use.
When rice is done cooking, transfer to a large bowl; loosen rice grains gently with a wooden spatula or spoon by cutting and folding (do not stir, as this will crush the rice). Sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice, mixing together as you sprinkle (add enough dressing to coat the rice but not make it damp - you may not need to use all the vinegar dressing). Spread the hot rice on top of a large sheet of aluminum foil and let cool.
Lay the bamboo sushi rolling mat on a cutting board with bamboo strips going horizontally from you. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the bamboo mat. Place the nori on top of the plastic wrap (shiny side down). Spread a thin layer, 3/4 to 1 cup, of rice over 3/4 of the nori leaving approximately one inch of uncovered nori at each end (it helps to wet your fingers with cold water when you are patting the rice onto the nori).
NOTE: To make the Inside-Out Rolls, after spreading the rice on the nori, sprinkle with poppy or roasted sesame seeds. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Lifting with the bottom plastic wrap, turn over the nori/rice sheet onto the bamboo rolling mat. Remove top plastic wrap and proceed as below.
Arrange strips of avocado and cucumber along the center of the rice; top with crab meat. Placing your fingers on the ingredients, carefully bring the bottom end of the rolling mat and the plastic wrap up and over the ingredients (tucking the end of the nori to start a roll). Pull back the rolling mat and plastic wrap, as necessary, so it does not get rolled into the sushi. Continue rolling the sushi and pulling back the rolling mat and plastic wrap, as necessary, until you have approximately 1 to 2 inches of the top of the nori showing. Rub a small amount of cold water on the edge of the nori and bring the nori around so that it completes the sushi roll. Gently squeeze the rolling mat around the sushi roll until it is firm and forms an even roll (be carefuly not to squeeze too hard, as you may crush the ingredients or squeezed them out). Wrap the plastic wrap around the roll and set aside until ready to cut or refrigerate or for longer storage. Repeat with remaining 4 nori sheets to make additional rolls.
Place rolls on a flat cutting board and remove plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife, cut each roll into 8 pieces (wet the knife between each cut to make it easier to cut and keep the rice from sticking to the knife). Arrange California Rolls on a serving platter and serve with wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger. Always serve sushi rolls at room temperature.
Makes 40 California Rolls.