Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Spider Rolls

I feel as though I am on a roll with cooking and eating green crabs! 😀 Yesterday after working in the clinic I went to the shore and I harvested a number of tiny crabs, luckily along with 3 soft-shell green crabs. A few days prior I was given some that had molted in Dr. Bradt's lab. In my life I have never imagined that I would one day cook and eat lab specimens...but secretly I think I have a pretty sweet deal!

Many of you may have eaten spider rolls at Japanese restaurants. Generally they are made from battered fried soft-shell Chesapeake blue crabs, spicy mayo, avocado, cucumber, and radish sprouts or some kind of greens.  

I have never made a spider roll before. My initial roll looked quite pathetic but thankfully I improved a little after a few rolls. Just like anything else it takes practice and time. Here are a few tips that I learned from making these; use chopsticks to fluff and hand fan to cool the rice (the Japanese way is to use a rice paddle to cut through the rice), and wet your palms and fingers before handling the rice. The more rice you use on the nori the fatter your roll will be. Try to press the rice down onto the nori (seaweed) with your fingers, it does not matter which side of the nori you use as it will be an inside out roll, and use a plastic sheet to wrap your bamboo mat securely.

spider rolls (2nd attempt)
spider rolls

Spider Rolls

Ingredients:

Bamboo mat with plastic wrap
3-4 nori whole sheets, cut in half to yield 6-8 half sheets
1 recipe of Sushi Rice (see recipe below)
1 recipe of Spicy Mayo Sauce (see recipe below)
2 mini cucumbers, washed, cut each into 4 length-wise
1 ripe avocado, cut in half, removed seed
A handful of fresh sea asparagus, blanched for about 10 seconds in boiling water
18-20 Battered Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs (see recipe below)

Method:

Wrap the bamboo mat securely with a plastic sheet and place it on your work surface. Place a half sheet of nori down on the bamboo mat. Wet your fingers and palms with water. Add a portion of your rice to cover all of the nori sheet, press the rice down firmly with your fingers, flip the rice-nori sheet over with the rice facing down, spread a dollop of spicy mayo sauce across the width of the nori sheet, add 1 slice of cucumber, a slice of avocado, a few sprigs of sea asparagus, and 2-3 crabs. Let part of the crabs and other ingredients stick out a little on the sides. Roll firmly and tightly. Cut the roll with a sharp knife in a quick saw-like motion. Clean the knife on a damp cloth before making another slice. May serve with a little extra spicy sauce and garnish with 1-2 fried crabs if interested.

ready to start rolling
wrapped bamboo mat
place sushi rice on nori sheet and press the rice down
flip over with rice facing down
add your fillings-avocado slice, cucumber slice,
sea asparagus, crabs and spicy mayo sauce
finished roll
close up of a slice with chunky crab meat

It is difficult for me to write how to cook rice because all my life I have never measured the rice or the water until this post. I started making rice when I was about 7 or 8 years old because my parents were both working. Back then I was making it the primitive way--in a pot, using wood and kindling that I gathered and making a fire. I had to watch it carefully, keep the lid slightly open so the water does not boil over and shifting my fire so the heat will not burn the rice. Nowadays I plug in the rice cooker to an outlet and push a button and in no time the rice is done. I have a rice cooker that my parents purchased for me decades ago when I landed my first job far away from home. It is a Japanese brand and it still makes perfect rice. If you do not have one I recommend getting one especially if you enjoy eating rice. It's a time saving appliance. 

fluffing rice using chopsticks and cooling with a hand fan
Sushi Rice (makes 6 fatter rolls or 8 thinner rolls)

Ingredients:

2 cups short-grain rice
2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

Method:

Gently wash your rice with water 2-3 times until the water in the rice is not cloudy. Drain all the rice and add about 2 1/2 cups water. Cook the rice in a rice cooker. Once the rice is done cooking, use chopsticks to stir or fluff up the rice, cover and let it continue to cook (keep the plug intact and do not press the button to cook on the rice cooker) for about 15-20 minutes. Once it is done, transfer the cooked rice to a glass or ceramic bowl. Drizzle the rice vinegar over the rice and fluff up the rice with chopsticks while using a hand fan to help cool the rice. Divide the rice into 6 or 8 portions depending on how fat or thin you want your rolls to be. Once cooled cover with a damp towel.

batter
prepared crabs and batter

battered fried soft-shell green crabs

Battered Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs

Ingredients:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup cold beer
18-20 prepared soft-shell green crabs (see How to Prepare Soft-Shell Green Crab for Eating)
Oil for deep frying

Method:

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl to blend. Add egg and beer and whisk to blend. Heat oil in a pot or a deep fryer to about 350 degrees F. If you do not have a thermometer you can test using a little batter. If it sizzle quickly then your oil is hot. Dip 2-3 crabs in the batter and fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels to drain the oil.

Helpful Hints:

*This batter should be enough for about 35-40 green crabs. In this recipe I use 18 prepared soft-shell green crabs ranging from 1 inch to 2 inches.
*I like adding turmeric but you can omit it. 
*I use an IPA beer.

Spicy Mayo Sauce

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp sriracha sauce

Method:

Mix until blended.

Helpful Hints:

*I use store-bought Avocado Oil Mayo for my Spicy Mayo Sauce.
*Sea Asparagus: for a few sprigs you can microwave about 20 seconds to blanch. However, for large amount I blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds. I remove them and run cold water over them once done and dab with a towel to dry especially when using for making sushi.

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