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California rolls and California hand rolls have been around for decades and have won the hearts of sushi lovers across the nation. Though these two California-inspired sushi staples share the same general appearance on the outside, with the same cores of familiar sushi ingredients like cucumber and crabstick, there are several key differences between them. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between a California roll and a California hand roll to help sushi aficionados identify which one they should order the next time they decide to indulge.
Differences in Preparation
One of the most notable differences between a California roll and a California hand roll is the way in which they’re prepared. A traditional California roll is typically prepared by rolling sushi rice, cucumber, crabstick, and avocado in seaweed and then rolling the produce out on its side to create a cylindrical shape. The cylinder is then cut into multiple smaller rolls, which may be lightly toasted or fried before serving. In contrast, a California hand roll is prepared by hand-shaping the same ingredients into a cone shape, then cutting the cone in half. The cone shape allows customers to eat the sushi in one bite, without requiring a knife or chopsticks like they would with a California roll.
Differences in Taste
Another key difference between a California roll and a California hand roll is their individual flavor and texture. Due to its preparation method, a California hand roll is labeled by some as a “wet” sushi due to its slightly gummy texture when chewed. When biting into a California hand roll, one may typically taste the flavors of the ingredients primarily due to the fact that the salt from the rice is closer to the eater’s tongue. In turn, the flavors of a California roll depends largely on the rice, which makes the flavor more subtle.
Differences in Outer Layer
The diversity of California-inspired sushi options doesn’t stop with the way the rolls are made. The “outer layer” that both the California roll and California hand roll use come in a variety of forms. While a traditional California roll is often prepared with seaweed wrappers, the wrappers may be swapped out for soy paper, cucumber, or various other ingredients. In contrast, the California hand roll is typically made using seaweed wrappers, as the shape would be difficult to maintain with alternate wrappers.
Difference in Sauce
A lesser-known difference between a California roll and a California hand roll comes in the form of the sauces and condiments that accompany each dish. While a traditional California roll is often served with soy sauce or a combination of soy sauce and wasabi, a California hand roll will typically include different accompaniments such as mayonnaise, garnishes, and pickled vegetables. Additionally, ponzu sauce is the common condiment choice for a California hand roll, due to its stronger, slightly more tart flavor.
Differences in Presentation
The presentation between the two types of California-inspired sushi also varies. The traditional California roll typically arrives on a plate with each of the small, cut rolls sitting neatly side by side within it. In contrast, a California hand roll is often presented by itself with decorative elements such as radishes and chives.
Differences in Calories
Sushi fans looking for lighter options frequently compare the calorie difference between a California roll and a California hand roll. It is important to note, however, that the calorie count can vary significantly depending on the filling used and the sauces added to it. Generally speaking, a California roll will provide fewer calories than a California hand roll due to its lesser use of mayo. So while each roll offers some nutritional value, sushi lovers should take into account the type of roll they’re ordering before they dig in.