Spicy crab roll is a popular item often ordered in a sushi bar, and Japanese food fans really enjoy this tantalising treat! To understand its allure, we scoured the web to unearth its origins and the best recipes to make it.
Read on to discover our extensive research to create your own sushi dish at home!
What is a Spicy Crab Roll?
Spicy crab roll is also known as ‘Kani maki’ and is simply crab ( ‘kani’ in Japanese) rolled tightly in spices with sushi rice, wrapped in seaweed.
Japanese hand-pressed sushi (nigirizushi), as we know it now, was created in the 18th century. Raw fish was wrapped with rice and an outer layer of seaweed. However in the United States, sushi rolled in an inside-out style became popular. This method supposedly made the dish more enticing to Western diners, who did not like raw fish. Read on to find out more about the origins of the dish.
In the United States, the first mention of a spicy crab roll was in 1979. Chefs noticed Americans plucked the seaweed before eating. This led to the invention of the inside-out method of rolling sushi. Ingredients were wrapped with seaweed, then rolled again with an outer coat of rice.
Food reviewers in the 1970s wrote about Ichiro Mashita, a Los Angelos chef who substituted fatty tuna for avocado with crab leg. Moreover, he added cucumber, ginger, mayonnaise, wrapping these with seaweed and packing it with rice.
Other sources claim spicy Kani maki resulted from the ingenious brainwave of Japanese chef Hidekazu Tojo in Canada who invented the ‘uramaki’ method to hide ingredients such as raw fish and seaweed.
It is said that the nickname ‘California roll’ may have surfaced as a nod to Americans who loved this sushi. However, it is said to also be used to credit the use of avocado, commonly used in Californian kitchens. Over time, many chefs started experimenting with different ingredients, and the fusion sushi concept was born.
Is Spicy Crab Roll Cooked or Raw?
While sushi can have raw fish, we do not use it for Kani maki. We use cooked crab meat in this recipe.
Difference between California rolls?
The primary difference between a spicy crab roll and a California roll; it’s just a matter of rice placement and ingredients! For first-time sushi eaters, you might wonder at the differences between spicy crab roll versus a California roll.
A spicy Kani maki is literally crab meat wrapped in rice and seaweed. Traditionally, Kani maki can refer to shredded crab meat, or Kani sticks, which are first submerged in a mixture of spices. The sushi master then rolls the bits into rice evenly placed on a sheet of seaweed.
However, a spicy Kani maki done in a California roll inside-out style has crab meat with avocado and cucumber that is wrapped with seaweed, covered with an outer layer of rice.
As diners become more adventurous, it is not uncommon to see restaurants serving both types of Kani maki. It is also common to see California roll with different fillings.
A salmon filling is a popular one. As Western diners became less squeamish with raw fish in the 19th century, the salmon California roll gained popularity. Instead of avocado, chefs also tried thick, creamy substitutes such as cream cheese, to appeal to Western tastebuds.
Spicy Crab Roll Ingredients
To make this dish, you’ll need to get Kani, seaweed (nori), some spices, and mayonnaise.
You will also need sticky sushi rice. When buying sushi rice from grocery stores, look out for short-grained, starch-filled rice labelled “sushi rice”. When purchasing rice, buy packets labelled “sushi rice”. Rice not meant for sushi will not be sticky enough. An affordable option normally found in the baking aisle is pudding rice. It has the same amount of stickiness.
These ingredients are the same if you choose to make a Kani salad.
For the crab part, you can either pick fresh or tinned ones to make Kani maki. The canned ones will need to be mixed with some crab paste for a rich flavour. If you’re looking for an affordable option, we suggest using kamaboko or Kani sticks which taste very similar to crab.
How To Make Spicy Crab Roll
The first step is to cook sushi rice for your spicy crab roll. We can prepare cooked rice in advance and keep it for 3-5 days in the refrigerator after it cools to room temperature. The recipe below lists the steps to cook the rice.
Before you attempt the recipe below, it is also a good idea to test your spice level. You can use your favourite spices and modify them according to your tolerance level.
Be sure also to squeeze out excess water if you are using canned Kani meat. Lastly, to roll the sushi, it is best to have a sushi bamboo mat. With these preparations done, let’s make a delicious spicy crab roll!
Spicy Crab Roll | Kani Maki
- 1 cup Japanese short grain rice
- 1¼ cups cold water
- 3 tbsp sushi rice vinegar
- Cook the sushi rice. Once cooked, mix in the sushi vinegar. Leave it to cool to room temperature.
- Mix sriracha sauce and mayonnaise together in a bowl. After shredding the crab meat, add the sriracha mayo and mix it well. Toast the nori sheet.
- Place a sushi bamboo mat on a clean flat surface, place a sheet of cling wrap on top. Cut a piece of seaweed into two halves, and spread a thin layer of rice on a piece of seaweed. Gently press the rice with a spoon to flatten it, then sprinkle gomashio on top of it.
- Now, flip the rice and nori sheet, so that your seaweed is facing up. You can then add the spicy Kani salad in Step 2 to the middle of the nori sheet. Add the avocado, cucumber, and mango on top of it, with some mayonnaise.
- Roll the bamboo mat starting at the edge with both hands pressing it down firmly, continue until you reach the end. Leave in the fridge for at least 60 minutes or in the freezer for only 15 minutes. You can now cut your kani maki into pieces and remove the cling wrap for serving.
- If you like, you can place your masago on a plate, then roll each sushi slice onto the masago. Now you can serve your spicy crab roll!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
How Daily’s Youtube channel made a great video on how to make a crab salad maki. The difference in their recipe is that they do not include avocado and mango in their filling. In addition, they use a larger portion of shredded Kani sticks to then cover the outer layer of the maki.
How many calories are in a spicy crab roll?
Each kani maki has approximately 390 calories, and each piece is approx 78 calories.
Tips For Making Spicy Kani Maki
Here are some tips to perfectly prepare the dish. Sushi rice is very sticky and can be difficult to handle. To avoid this sticky situation, make a hand dipping liquid with ¼ cup water and 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar. Keeping your hands wet with this helps the rice to stay off your hands.
Next, a bamboo sushi mat is best for making the sushi roll. When rolling the sushi, squeeze it gently but firmly. After which, place the mat over the roll, then squeeze it again. This keeps your spicy crab roll compact.
Using your fingers to wet the nori sheet slightly is also helpful for keeping the spicy crab roll tightly packed. Sushi rolling is a skill, so doing it slowly will certainly help in the presentation.
You can always secure the ends of the cling wrap like a burrito to tighten the roll. The cling wrap not only helps to make a more compact roll, but it is also easier to wash the bamboo mat post-cooking!
This dish is best enjoyed fresh and on the same day of cooking.
What happens if you’re cooking for guests who don’t like spicy food? It’s perfectly okay to skip the spices for the sushi filling to make a spicy crab roll.
You can add other ingredients to the maki for a stronger flavour. Perhaps add more avocado or cream cheese for a creamier filling, and add fatty fish such as tuna or salmon. Or maybe you prefer a crunchier Kani maki. Adding deep-fried flour batter (tenkatsu) will give it that extra bite.
For an even more robust bite, substitute the Kani sticks with a tempura-fried soft shell crab. This might be a little more complex to cook, but the salty, oily batter of tempura coating juicy, sweet, pliable meat will have your guests swooning as they tuck into the sushi pieces. You can also make spicy shrimp rolls, using tempura prawns instead of crab.
Have a friend who’s a fan of spicy crab roll? Then definitely share this article with them and encourage them to get their hands sticky so that they’ll make you some!
Next, learn how to prepare gunkan maki which is also called battleship sushi) using leftovers in your home kitchen!