California Roll Bowl {recipe} – Pseushi

the califonia bowl
The California Roll makes me mad.

Every time I go to a Japanese restaurant or sushi bar, I crinkle my nose when I see California rolls on the menu. If someone actually orders a California Roll, I just have to *sigh* I don’t know the history of how the California roll came into existence, but I’d be willing to bet my own bamboo mat that it wasn’t a sushi chef in Japan that created the original pseudo-sushi that is the ancestor to things like Rainbow Rolls, Las Vegas Rolls and Godzilla forbid, cream cheese stuffed Philadelphia Rolls.

But even with my mild aversion to the idea of a California roll, I have to admit that I love all the components: crabmeat, avocadoes, cucumbers. So every once in a while, I allow the California roll to serve as the inspiration for a super easy throw-together meal for a hectic weekday that would make Rachael Ray nervous about her job – a California roll in a bowl, properly referred to as the California Böll here at the Delicious Life.

Steamed white rice brown rice with quinoa is the base. Two cups of hot cooked rice get tossed with a tablespoon each of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce (more if you’re a saltaholic like me), and a teaspoon each of sugar, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Fresh hot rice tastes the best, but re-heated leftover rice works well since it will have things added to it anyway. Pile the rice into a bowl, and then add the ingredients that make a California roll: avocado, cucumber, chopped crab meat, and garnished with toasted nori. Yes this is a weekday meal and I had to use “krab” meat because who the hell is going to the fish market on a Thursday to buy live crabs, steam them, and pull their meat for a stupid rice bowl?

a california roll in a bowlVariations of the Böll make it onto the Delicious dinner table fairly often for weekday meals. When I am good, and can plan in advance, I make the big Sunday dinner something that includes a large pot of rice, with the intention of having leftover rice for Sushi Roll Bölls all week.

With the same rice base as the California Böll, a substitution of broiled unagi (freshwater eel) instead of crabmeat along with the avocado and cucumber and drizzled with the sweet unagi kabayaki sauce becomes an Unagi Roll Bowl. Served with fresh maguro (tuna), chopped scallions, and a drizzle of spicy sriracha and sesame oil it’s a Spicy Tuna Roll Bowl. Add all manner of colorful raw fish and you have a Rainbow Roll Bowl.

I put my foot down, however, at cream cheese. Never ever, not even for a pseudo sushi bowl, should one add cream cheese.

How to Make a California Roll Bowl

Cook a half-and-half combination of Asian or California short grain brown rice in your trusty little rice cooker.

For every 2 cups of cooked rice, gently stir/mix in:

  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Pile the rice into a bowl and top with:

  • chopped avocado
  • julienned cucumber
  • shredded krab (do not dare use real crab! no one wastes real crab in a California roll)
  • julienned toasted nori

If you’re FANCY, garnish with masago or tobiko (the crunchy orange flying fish roe). I also like to throw a little ball of wasabi in there for fun. Because I’m fun like that.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • LACheesemonger

    Ah come on now Sarah, now you’re really insulting me.

    Let’s take a look at the very 1st post I made to your blog about Typhoon… shall we?….dance.
    “ESSAY 5” …(origin of California Roll)

    Ah yes, that post that the CHLA team deleted, one ‘controversial’ paragraph went about like this on a 1k post rant about the excessive use/misuse of ‘authentic’ on CHLA’s board by ignorant ‘experts’ who don’t know what they are talking about:

    “I was in Little Tokyo waiting for the former Fujiyoshi restaurant to open when I walked into the clothing store next door. A young college aged, Japanese temp saleswoman who did not speak English all that well, was asked by yours truly, if she had been next-door to try the sushi. She said no and that she also worked part-time at a Japanese restaurant near the Beverly Center, but that she likes sushi… ” I like California Roll and spicy tuna roll”. Seriously, arrgh, the youth of Japan has been corrupted by Americanized/Western cultural fastfood mentality! You can get either of these now ‘traditional’ (as long as you were born in Japan in the last few decades) sushi items at many a sushi bar in Japan. Blasphemy for us ‘old-farts’ ” CHLA hits the delete button, hehe.

    Sushi 101, and for those who missed it Typhoon’s top dog chef uses Westernized two-edged knives to cut his sushi, not the traditional (and potentially sharper edge, from craftsmen that go back the knife making and samurai swords) single-edged specialty Japanese knives.

    I suppose I could give you a few more links about Japanese knives, various types of steel used for the ultra expensive custom models that are priced at over $1k.

    Hmm, now did DS see the Jonathan Gold article (and has the hot to trot Sarah been to Koi yet to… um, hookup ;-) ?) about how Shige (Shibucho on Beverly, which is NOT a dump) only serves what ‘da princess’ would consider traditional sushi?

    See, that’s why you cannot even believe the so-called experts. Now assuming, I could get Sonya Choi to put up with the hyperactive DS (well since they both like to cook Korean food at home, umm well of course Sonya does have a French chef b/f… which would make DS kind of jealous, lol); I was thinking DS could join us sometime when we head on back to a rare appearance at Shibucho for the usual suspects of loads of wine, food- challenged, Shige prepared meals to work with the wines, and NO karaoke. I mean you can only make sushi for how many decades before you get kind of bored with it. Throw in a gang of wine weenies/ corkheads; hellbent on challenging the chef to come up with mostly Japanese influenced, but fusion with Mediterranean/Italian cooking, et viola Japanese pizza, cause we joked with him (not a good idea, given his sometimes whimsical moods) about how the rich but acidic 1992 Alsatian Riesling Sonya brought would go great with pizza… if only this were an Italian pizzeria.

    So there you have it, thinly cut Japanese eggplant slices, with a medium-coarse tomato puree (Momataro?), and grated Italian parmesan sprinkled on top and then quickly melted down with the broiler. What you see in the decanter, next to my bottle of 1995 W-S Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir-sexy sweet with some types of sushi, is the 1992 Williams-Selyem Zinfandel-hehe only 15.6% alcohol, but given Sonya and that other lightweight from ‘Da Bronx, a person even more hyper that Sarah!, in the picture, were starting to burp 1/2 way through the meal of umm, 8 opened-but not all finished bottles (from the hillside portion of the Martinelli vineyard, which is where the oldest 90+yr vines are, nicknamed but never used on the labels before the younger generation of Martinelli’s took over from Grandpa Leno Martinelli…. ‘Jackass Hill’, cause it took a jackass/mule to pull carts up the super steep hill, where machinery could not go, to load up the picked grapes), it was an ‘Bacchanalian feast’ as it were,

    Not sure DS could handle that, and no sex- kind of like the interviewer from GQ with Goddess Supreme Jessica Alba (whom I’ll tell you I’m quite jealous of, started becoming a sophisticated wine drinker in her teens, now that’s just not right… and I highly doubt she could tell you all these different nuances and different varietals as claimed in the article… but still, if JA wants to drink up a storm with me and some tasty food sometime, I’m available, lol! )

    Oh sure we had some maguro sashimi as a palette cleanser towards the end of the meal, but other than that, no real ‘traditional’ sushi. More fusion than anything else.

    Then again, DS doesn’t even read the links I provide, so would it be worth it to have her along if she only pays attention to what she wants to pay attention to??? Hmm, her bio says ‘big brain’; but apparently big brain needs to be slapped up side the head on occasion ;). So I say to DS, “you’re bad”. Then she does the comeback line that Sandra Oh’s character from Sideways says, “I know, I need to be spanked”. Uh huh, me thinks DS is a bit on the silly side when she goes out, I could be wrong though… 1st, 2nd, 3rd impressions and so on ;)

    No matter how steady your hands are, without a flash, it’s impossible to get sharp/blur-free pictures at slow shutter speeds. You need either a expensive, big SLR digicam; or a newer model Point-N-shoot that has a image sensor that goes up to at least ISO rating of 1600, like the Fuji F10.

    M$ Word tallies, ~999 words, not quite up to DS’s usual 1k+ average…I guess I just don’t have her gift for gab :(

    BTW-CHLA team, try & delete this from DS’s blog, she’ll get a full version via e-mail anyway, so there!

  • Jennifer

    Wow! That’s a mouthful!

    Anyway, I have to secretly admit I had a Philadelphia roll last week. Not the most authentic piece of sushi in the world but it was pretty darn good. Do I get kicked out of the club?

  • sarah

    congratulations, cheesemonger! your post actually stayed permanent! and yes yes, i do click through your links – when they’re clickable – otherwise, ctrl+c, ctrl-v is too much effort for me ;) now, how do i respond to all those other comments you made…? just one – absofockinglutely yes i am silly when i go out (no, i’m not a lightweight, for fox ache i’m korean) – LOL! also, food and dining out just can’t be taken too seriously or else i’d be disappointed a lot more, dontcha think?

    jennifer: i am LOL about your philadelphia roll! why be secret about it! stand up! be proud! eat a philly roll and say you liked it out loud! lol! i certainly don’t keep to myself what i like and don’t like, and neither should anyone else! ;)

  • Stephanie

    Oh, that’s brilliant. Why haven’t I thought of this? And there’s some fairly decent vegetarian crab out there…thanks for the recipe!

  • Stephanie

    Oh, that’s brilliant. Why haven’t I thought of this? And there’s some fairly decent vegetarian crab out there…thanks for the recipe!

  • s

    this is a great idea. i always get like the fajita bowls but this is good easy idea.

    i really enjoy your blog!

  • Sam

    i like this idea but sans cucumber
    i also like california rolls
    there si something so satiftying about avocado
    umm, avocado maki, yum.

    isn’t it time lacheesemonger got his own blog?

  • Clare Eats

    I agree sam!

    I like this with a big pile of smoked salmon instead of the faux crab mmmmmm

  • sarah

    if i didn’t feel so damn guilty about it (focking bridesmaid dress – LOL!), i’d eat an avocado boll, a la sam! just rice and avocado – how delicious would that be?!?!?

    and salmon would be awesome! i’ve never made a smoked salmon boll – now what would go with that? (not cream cheese! ;) )

  • sarah

    if i didn’t feel so damn guilty about it (focking bridesmaid dress – LOL!), i’d eat an avocado boll, a la sam! just rice and avocado – how delicious would that be?!?!?

    and salmon would be awesome! i’ve never made a smoked salmon boll – now what would go with that? (not cream cheese! ;) )

  • Sam

    oh shit – i forgot – i have a bridesmaid dress to fit into, too, come october.
    damned calories in the scrummy avocado.

  • duckduckgoose

    Last night I had a bowl with quinoa, lemon, green onion, blue cheese, smoked trout and avocado. I guess that’s my crazy version. For somebody who claims not to like rice you sure seem to eat it often. Why torture yourself? It would be just as good with quinoa, pasta, wild rice, kasha, cous cous, etc.

  • sarah

    oi, sam! isn’t it torturous!?! *sigh* come holiday season right after though, NO restrictions! ;)

    duckduckgoose: VERY interesting combination! smoked trout actually sounds great – i don’t think i’ve ever tasted it before.

    hee hee. actually, the rice is done for others who eat with me. when i make my portion, usually i substitute crumbled TOFU for rice! looks exactly the same ;)

    i have not yet made anything with quinoa at home, though i have tried it many times before.

    on a side note – i actually don’t love pasta/noodles that much either. my carb/starch of choice is always…BREAD. :)

  • duckduckgoose

    It would definitely make a good sandwich.

  • Anonymous

    very tasty, thanks! jp! ;)

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful blog. Keep up the good work.

  • LACheesemonger

    And speaking of all things Japanese authentic & traditional ;); who is going to the annual Tofu Festival, as part of LA’s Nisei week Aug. 13-14th?

    Spam Musubi, Tofu Tacos, Tofu Cheesecake, Tofu Ice Cream, Tofu Chili, and OMG Sarah… Tofu Nachos! Chased with a yummy ‘traditional’ Soy Milk Tea Boba, Passion Fruit Juice w/Boba. ;-) Gotta go!

    Actually, I don’t really hate Tofu, Royal Star makes a tasty good seafood chowder with soft tofu squares; which was recommended by the former sweetie of a cashier/hostess as something easy to swallow, for my mother when my mother’s throat was all swollen and in pain from radiation treatments and removal of malignant tumor under her tongue

    Spam spam, spam spam… wonderful Spam! Bo Boba, boba boba…wonderful Boba!

    Then there’s Arcadia’s, LA 18- Harvest Moon Festival… will they even have any decent mooncakes, and shouldn’t they have put on the event in August, instead of Sept18th???

    Last but not least, we can expect lots of ‘authentic’ & ‘traditional’ (well at least for the last decade or so… that’s old enough to become ‘cultural’… pop culture, isn’t it ;) ) at the 32st Los Angeles Korean Festival, in commemoration of the 100th year Korean immigration, September 22-25.

    With so much tradition & ‘authenticity’; maybe I should get away from food & wine for a spell lol, and see Wong Kar Wai’s new American release movie ‘2046’- futuristic/sex thriller; that could be fun ;) ? A modern day version of that ‘classic’ (it’s more than a decade old so it qualifies as a classsic, doesn’t it- Sharon Stone sex thriller ‘Sliver’? Doh.

  • kirk

    Don’t forget tofutti!!! I usually go every year – can’t miss tofu-zilla after all!

  • tara

    Lovely and fresh looking for a hot day – and as mentioned, a great sandwich filling (I’m already partial to crabmeat/lobster club sandwiches with avocado).

  • Anonymous

    O come on the california roll help americans get introduced to sushi,and is a gateway to help them explore sushi options.May they will try nigiri,or guncan maki on the next visit to thier local sushi su?aka sushi restrant.

    have a nice day

    CHEF B

    • Sarah J. Gim

      That’s actually very, very true, Chef B. I shouldn’t be such a hater :) And the reality is, when I am REALLY in a bind, I run into a grocery store and pick up a CA roll.

  • Anonymous

    isn’t this just a variation of hwae dup bap?

  • Sarah J Gim

    anonymous: kind of, but the hwae dup bahp I’ve always seen has raw fish. i don’t trust myself enough with raw fish at home. hell, apparently i don’t even trust myself with real fish since i used “krab” meat. ;)

    and besides, hwae dup bap is really in a class by itself, since it should have enough gohchoojahng to burn a hellmouth of a hole in your intestines.

  • Corinne

    I know this is a superold entry… found it on Tastespotting… this is a great idea! pseu shi! I love it!

  • A

    I saw this on as well; great recipe! I added a bit of wasabi paste to it, and went way heavy on the soy sauce. Yum.

  • Anonymous

    There is a form of this type of “sushi bowl” already in Japanese cuisine; it’s called Chirashi-sushi (“Chirashi” means to “scatter” pieces of fish/veggies/condiments over sushi rice). In restaurants the sashimi (raw fish slices) are beautifully arranged with other ingredients like shiitake mushrooms or avocado. I’m sure you’ll find it at many Japanese restaurants. Food bloggers should learn more about what’s out there in a culture’s cuisine before stating it as your own.

  • Sarah J. Gim

    You are so right, Anonymous. I should be shot with stale scones for such flagrant food blogging misconduct – firstly for not doing 6 weeks of proper research before writing about something I throw together for dinner on a weekday, and secondly, for invisibly claiming chirashi sushi as my own (my own what? creation? recipe?) even though technically, if I were to claim anything at all, it’d be my invention of hwae duhp bahp since I’m korean.


  • amy

    Methinks that this is *awesome* Very creative. I likie : P

  • Jackie

    What a brilliant idea. I love the idea of a deconstructed California roll sushi. Rolling sushi can be such a pain, next I have a craving for sushi, I’ll try that :)

  • Hillary

    I agree that the California roll shouldn’t be considered sushi…I’m not so big on them either. I mainly dislike them because they are often made with imitation crabmeat. Nice bowl idea.

  • Kevin

    Deconstructed sushi is a great idea!

  • Bogita_

    I just made this tonight ( sorry to post on a 3 yr old thread, but I just found this on Pinterest). This was amazing to eat on a hot night because the ingredients are so fresh and the rice is the only thing that has to be cooked. I added water chesnuts and vidalia onion to mine. It was a give hit, thanks!

    • Sarah J. Gim

      bogita: don’t apologize for posting to an “old” recipe! (can’t believe this California “Boll” is SEVEN YEARS OLD!)

      it’s always nice to be reminded of good foods to make again ;D the water chestnuts are a *great* idea to add texture…love it! thanks! ~ sarah

  • jason

    I like that you elaborated on WHY you don’t like the California roll and look down your nose at people who eat it.

  • Kaela

    Both things I’ve read by you so far made you come off as incredibly snobby and rude. I’m not a fan.

    Just because something wasn’t eaten thousands of years ago in foreign lands doesn’t mean it’s stupid for people to like it lol. Food is fun. It’s exploration. It’s about the experience. I am fascinated by food history and I totally understand being interested in authenticity, especially with something like sushi, but going out for dinner doesn’t always have to a history lesson. Sometimes even sushi can just be fun.

Previous post:

Next post: