Are you a spicy crunchy shrimp roll fan? Because I was never really a raw fish enthusiast, up until I tried, the Crunchy Sushi roll. I first came across this Japan-inspired delicacy when I was traveling for work in London.
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I arrived pretty late at night one day, and much to my surprise, every nearby restaurant had already closed. Just when I was about to give up hope, I saw a blue neon sign that read: ‘Sushi – OPEN.’ I am not a fan of seafood, less so if it is raw fish. But options were scarce, and I was famished!
The restaurant’s specialty was Spicy Crunchy Shrimp roll. Thus, I decided that since I was already there, I should give it a try. At first sight, it looks like any other sushi roll. However, the taste is everything but conventional!
What Is a Crunchy Roll?
The Crunchy Sushi roll is a pretty straightforward, but incredibly delicious, sushi roll. Usually, it includes shrimp, or a snow crab mix accompanied by avocado, cream cheese, and cucumber. It is then rolled up in rice with Nori (edible seaweed) and topped with crunchy tempura flakes made out of Panko (Japanese bread crumbs.)
In some presentations, the specialty rice includes black sesame seed or red pepper flakes. Furthermore, the roll is typically paired with a tangy sauce combining red pepper flakes and soy, giving it an extra spicy kick!
Even though the name does not have a clear origin, it is said to be the result of the blend between Japanese and American culture. A traditional Japanese Maki is what we generally call in the Western hemisphere a ‘sushi roll.’ They usually only include one or two ingredients rolled up in seaweed and specialty rice and cut up into small pieces.
Nonetheless, given the crescent popularity of Asian cuisine, on this side of the world, sushi rolls have become a more intricate dish- with several new ingredients such as cream cheese or tempura flakes and specialized sauces like Siracha or Spicy Mayonnaise.
In consequence, the name Crunchy Sushi roll comes from the crunchy tempura flakes that top it, as it gives it a tasty crunch not very common within traditional Japanese rolls. Moreover, this type of roll can also be tempurized, a popular technique where the sushi rolls are assembled and then fried in sesame oil.
Tempurized rolls are most commonly known as ‘crunchy sushi’ and do not taste like raw fish. Therefore, making them a perfect choice for kids (or adults) who have yet to become sushi lovers.
Crunchy Roll Sushi Recipe
If I piqued your curiosity, or maybe your appetite, here is a simple Spicy Crunchy Shrimp roll recipe for you to venture into the sushi-making world.
- 2 cups of specialty rice
- 1/2 cup of white vinegar
- 10 large shrimps, peeled
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 5 large sheets of Nori
- 1 avocado, cut into thin strips
- 3 cups of Panko
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of cream cheese
- 1 cucumber, peeled a cut into long pieces
- Sesame oil
- Black sesame seeds
- Red pepper flakes
- Wasabi paste
- Soy sauce
- The first thing you would want to do is cook the rice. Thus, place the rice on a pressure cooker or pot (whatever you fill most comfortable using) and add water. Generally, I recommend using 1-part rice/2-parts of water for better results. This step might take between 20-30 minutes, depending on the cooker.
- Once the rice is ready, carefully place it on a large baking sheet or tray and sprinkle the white vinegar. With the palm of your hand, mix it without breaking the rice grains. Set apart and let it chill for 15 minutes.
- While you are waiting on the rice, start by peeling off your shrimps. Make sure you wash them properly and cut off the tail. Keep in mind that, if you see a dark line on their stomach, you might want to remove it as it the shrimp’s digestive tract.
- After the shrimps are clean, season them with salt (to taste). Then, sprinkle them with flour, dip them in the eggs and roll them through the Panko one by one.
- Fry the breaded shrimps in boiling sesame oil until they look crispy and golden brown. I recommend placing them on a paper towel, to remove all the extra oil, and let them sit for about 15 minutes.
- Place the Nori (seaweed sheet) on a cutting board and cut it into 2/3rds. Afterward, spread the rice on top of it (make sure it is on the non-glossy side of the seaweed).
- Transfer your Nori and rice into a bamboo mat/roller. I recommend you cover the mat with plastic wrap or foil previously, to avoid the rice from sticking.
- Place all the avocado strips, the cucumber pieces, a bit ok Wasabi, and cream cheese to taste.
- Once all the ingredients are on top of the rice roll the mat!
- Cut the sushi roll into small pieces and serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger.
Other Crunchy Roll Ingredients
Like I mentioned before, crunchy sushi can have different presentations depending on where you eat it. However, the majority of these rolls include the following ingredients:
- Fresh seafood (it can be tuna, salmon, crab, crab mix, or shrimp)
- Specialty rice
- Cream cheese
- Sesame seeds
- Tempura flakes
Other optional ingredients that you can find in these types of sushi roll are:
- Chili flakes
- Red Pepper flakes
- Black sesame seeds
- Wakame (a different kind of edible seaweed)
- Pickled ginger
- Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
Also, depending on where you try it, crunchy sushi can be paired not only with soy sauce but also with:
- Spicy mayonnaise
- Ginger-soy sauce
- Unagi sauce (eel sauce)
- Ponzu sauce
Furthermore, in some cases, the Nori is replaced. Thus, if you don’t like the taste of seaweed, do not worry! You are most certainly not alone. One of the things that kept me from eating sushi all this time was the taste of seaweed. In my opinion, it tastes like salted water (if that makes any sense).
If you are like me, there is no reason to avoid eating sushi altogether.
Today, they are many other seaweed alternatives you can choose from. For example, some restaurants use soy paper to replace Nori. Its taste is almost undetectable! Other presentations include rolls wrapped in cucumber or an extra layer of fish like tuna or salmon.
Besides, you can actually wrap sushi with anything. Some of the most creative and delicious ways, I have seen Nori replaces is by using fried plantains or sweet bananas.
Tips for Making Sushi
We know that sushi making is not the easiest thing to do, especially if you have no previous experience. But do not worry! I have come up with several pointers that can help you get better results.
- Keep your sushi-making station clean.
- Portion your ingredients adequately; too much filling can make your rolls look sloppy.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the rolls; this will prevent it from breaking.
- Damp your knife’s blade before every cut, to prevent the rice from sticking to it.
- Always work on top of the matte side (not the bright side) of seaweed.
- Don’t let the rice dry too much; keep in mind that sushi rice must be moist and sticky.
- I have said this before but cover your mat with plastic foil before placing the ingredients; this will make the entire rolling process more manageable.
- Avoid using too many sauces; this will contribute to the roll falling apart.
- Go light on the Wasabi; too much of this ingredient could numb your tongue.
And of course, the best tip I can give you is to be patient! Practice makes perfect, and sushi making is no exception.
Food & Safety Guidelines (When Preparing Sushi)
Preparing sushi involves handling raw and cooked seafood. Given that seafood, especially fish is very easy to contaminate and can lead to severe food poisoning, it is essential to be extra careful when preparing sushi rolls. Below a list of ‘musts’ and things to look after to ensure the food is being handled correctly:
- Buy all your seafood products from only reputable and well-known vendors. I recommend places like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or fish markets to ensure freshness.
- Seafood has a particularly strong smell. Nonetheless, if you think the piece has an unusual odor, it is best if you discard it.
- If you are using frozen seafood, make sure it has not been frozen for more than 90 days.
- Refrigerated ingredients such as vegetables need to be covered and stored at an adequate temperature (below 40 degrees Celsius).
- Except for bamboo mats, I suggest you use only stainless-steel utensils that can be easily cleaned.
- Cutting boards need to be sanitized after using and let to dry before re-using them. Often bacteria can live more than 24 hours on a surface like this.
- When frying or cooking tempura rolls, never re-use it more than twice, or it has changed color to a dark brown.
- Last, but not least, keep your rolls out of direct sunlight and make sure they are served at room temperature!
In addition, and while we are on the topic of food safety, it is very important to note that pregnant women should never consume raw fish. Eating raw or undercooked fish or shellfish while expecting is a very risky thing to do.
Simple; seafood can carry various different diseases like Salmonella or Listeria that may result in blood infections that could be life-threatening for you and your unborn child. As a result, I also recommend for children under 6 years old, to stay away from this type of food. Even though in Japanese culture, it is entirely reasonable to feed babies’ raw fish, you can never be too careful!
Other Sushi Rolls
Aside from the Spicy Crunchy Shrimp roll, many other rolls within the crunchy sushi family can be truly enticing. Now that I am a sushi fan, I can assure you that these are the top-ten traditional rolls worth trying:
- California Roll: Imitation crab, avocado, and cucumber.
- Alaska Roll: Smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber, and sometimes asparagus.
- Rainbow Roll: Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, tuna, salmon, shrimp, and yellowtail.
- Dragon Roll: Eel, crabmeat, avocado, and cucumber topped with eel sauce.
- Philadelphia Roll: Fresh salmon, avocado, and cream cheese.
- Caterpillar Roll: Eel, cucumber, and avocado. But, if you are hooked up on the tempurized rolls or if raw fish is not your favorite, here’s a list of the best crunchy rolls (aside from the Spicy Crunchy Shrimp roll):
- Dynamite Roll: Shrimp tempura, yellowtail, bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, and cucumber, topped with spicy mayo and chili flakes.
- Shrimp Tempura Roll: Shrimp tempura, chives, cream cheese, and avocado topped with tempura flakes, and eel sauce.
- Spider Roll: Soft-shell crab tempura, cucumber, and avocado served with spicy mayo.
- Godzilla Roll: Shrimp tempura, scallops, cream cheese, avocado topped with tempura flakes and fresh eel.
Pairing Wine with Sushi
Another great thing about sushi is that contrary to popular belief; it goes really well with wine. Sake is, of course, the chosen matched by tradition; but not everyone likes it due to its strong taste. However, not every wine goes well with all the sushi types.
Based on my experience, depending on the seafood that goes in the roll, and whether it is raw or cooked, you can select different wines. For instance, for sushi rolls containing fresh tuna, the best wine is a Pinot Noir given that it complements the fish’ acidity. For pieces that include salmon, pink wine is always your best choice!
Furthermore, when eating rolls like the Crunchy Roll that contain seared or tempurized fish, I suggest you try white wines like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio as they complement the fatty flavors.
Why Sushi is Good for You
Another great thing I recently found out, given my recent sushi craving, is that this type of food is actually pretty healthy!
It turns out that most sushi ingredients are rich in nutrients and vitamins; for instance:
- Oily fish like tuna or salmon are an excellent source of Omega 3.
- Most of the vegetables used in sushi like cucumber, avocado, and aubergine are also a great source of minerals and nutrients. Some of the most relevant include potassium, fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
- Nori is also a rich and healthy ingredient. Seaweed is known to be high in fiber and protein; while also containing iodine, iron, zinc, and vitamins, all of which are essential minerals and nutrients.
Besides, sushi is also a very low-calorie meal (provided you do not exceed the sauces or the fried additions). On average, one piece of sushi has about 50 calories. A typical order of 8 pieces, or one roll, contains approximately 400 calories, depending on the ingredients. Of course, tempurized rolls tend to have more! On average, the Crunchy Roll has 80-90 calories per piece (more if you add a sauce with mayonnaise like the spicy mayo).
But that does not mean you can indulge in the occasional fried roll with all the toppings. A good alternative is requesting it with brown sticky rice instead of the regular white specialty rice. By doing so, you are avoiding extra sugar and calories.
Next time you are looking for a place to eat, try a sushi place. Including seafood to your everyday diet can actually help you watch your figure! More so, it is a healthier option than say pasta, hamburgers, or even chicken tender. A great tip if you travel a lot for work like me.
Wrapping it Up!
There you have it… Everything you need to know on the delicious, tasty, and never dull Crunchy Sushi roll. Plus, now you have an easy-to-follow recipe for making your own Spicy Crunchy Shrimp roll and how to pair it! Tips that will come in handy when looking to entertain family, friends, or even your significant other.
Besides, you know understand that sushi is not always ‘fishy’ and that there are many available options to fit every taste! Remember it is a healthier choice than many others out there, AND it has many minerals and vitamins that are good for your body.
Consequently, next time, you are craving sushi; try one of the rolls as mentioned earlier or even asked for a Crunchy Roll Sushi! Who knows maybe it will change your perception of sushi like it changed mine a few months ago!