California Bowl Recipe | Fresh Tastes Blog | PBS Food

Reimagine the California Bowl

California Bowl recipe

If you’re into food mythology you probably know the story about how the California Roll was invented in LA by a 1960’s era sushi chef trying to make due with the ingredients he had access to. Indeed, had that sushi chef lived in today’s world of daily flights ferrying fish rom Japan’s fish markets to American sushi joints, it’s possible that the California roll may have never been invented.

California Bowl Recipe

But with a growing movement towards sustainable sushi, perhaps the California roll is set for a second coming. This got me thinking: What would the California roll look like if it were invented today?

California Bowl Recipe

Well, for starters, it would probably be made with organic Calhikari rice produced in the Sacramento Valley. The rice might be seasoned with Meyer lemons from the chef’s backyard, along with fair-trade organic coconut sugar and Himalayan pink salt. Instead of a fancy roll, it might be served in a bowl instead, topped with Haas avocados from the Central Coast, Dungeness crab from the Bay Area, cilantro from the herb garden and a bit of finely julienned Meyer lemon zest. It might even look something like this…

…and it would taste delicious!

California Bowl Recipe

By using brown rice, Meyer lemon juice and coconut sugar, this is not only more nutritious than your average supermarket roll, it’s also more flavorful. The brown rice lends fiber, minerals and a subtle nuttiness that that’s a perfect compliment to the earthy coconut sugar and creamy avocado. Using Meyer lemon juice instead of rice vinegar gives a boost of vitamin C, and infuses the rice with a bright fresh flavor that’s accentuated by the threads of zest used to garnish the bowl.

California Bowl Recipe

Since most of the time involved is in making the brown rice, if you already have some rice made, just warm it up and stir it together with the lemon mixture; you’ll be eating a California Bowl in less than 5 minutes. For more on the technique for making shiny sushi rice with just the right amount of stickiness, check out my post on making sushi rice.

California Bowl

California Bowl recipe

Food blogger Marc Matsumoto reinvents the California roll into a modern day variation.



  • 2 rice cooker cups brown rice (300 grams)
  • 2 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup meyer lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 100 grams crab meat
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • Meyer lemon zest, for garnish


  1. Place the rice in a fine mesh sieve and wash thoroughly. Let it drain completely and put it in a pot with the water. Let the rice soak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Bring the the water to a boil over high heat, cover the pot with a lid and set the pot on your smallest burner at the lowest setting. Cook for 30 minutes. Do not open the lid.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the rice steam for another 10 minutes.
  4. If you are making the rice in a rice cooker, use the rice cooker up to measure out 2 cups. Rice the rice and fill the cooker to the 2 cup line for brown rice with water. If your cooker has a brown rice mode, set it and start it. If it does not have a brown rice mode, let the rice soak for 1 hour before starting the cooker.
  5. Mix lemon juice, coconut sugar and salt together in a small bowl until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved.
  6. To prepare the toppings, peel, pit and cube the avocado, sprinkling a little lemon juice on top to keep it from changing color. To get very thin threads of lemon zest, use a vegetable peeler to peel a bit of zest off the lemon and then use a very sharp knife to slice the peel into thin strips.
  7. When the rice is done, dump it out into the largest bowl you have and pour the seasoning all over the rice.
  8. Use a rice paddle or spatula to carefully stir the mixture together ensuring each grain is coated without breaking up the grains of rice. While you're mixing, have someone fan the rice to cool it off quickly. This is the secret to making sushi rice that's glossy and sticky but not mushy.
  9. Once the rice has cooled to room temperature, divide the rice amonst 2-4 bowls. Top with the avocado, crab, cilantro and lemon zest.

Yield: 2 large servings

Marc Matsumoto is the food blogger behind Fresh TastesMarc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.

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