Among all the foods of the world, sushi rolls stand out as the most unique, innovative, and flat-out enjoyable to eat. The format has inspired hundreds of distinctive sushi recipes, but of the many types of sushi rolls in the world, these seven, in particular, stand out as universal favorites.
The original inside-out roll (meaning the rice is outside the seaweed wrapper), the California roll is one of the most famous types of sushi on the planet, and for many, the first sushi roll they ever eat. Turns out, it wasn’t created in California or even Japan, but in Canada. However, it’s hard to argue that the inspiration to add avocado to a crab roll didn’t come from California. And these days, most special rolls worldwide are made inside-out style — even in Tokyo!
If a California roll is the gateway food for new sushi fans, this popular sushi roll follows close on its heels. According to Hollywood lore, adding spicy mayo to a tuna sushi roll came about in the 1970s, when even Los Angelinos were still tentative to the sushi concept. The spice balanced the tuna’s inherent sweetness, while the mayo masked its rawness. Today, L.A. has a voracious appetite for all types of sushi, but they still love their spicy tuna.
Portuguese traders are credited with first bringing the concept of breaded and fried fish to Japan, but no one denies the Japanese perfected the concept with a light and flaky panko tempura. Some sushi restaurants will deep fry an entire sushi roll to achieve the beautiful, crispy crunch of tempura fish, but a better innovation was to leave the sushi roll raw and fry the panko batter separately before adding to the finished roll to give it that crunch. Usually served with shrimp inside, the crunchy roll is beloved for adding texture most sushi lacks.
Invented by one of the world’s first female sushi chefs, this popular sushi roll of salmon and cream cheese indeed originated in Philadelphia. However, cream cheese did not, nor did the lox and schmear combo that inspired its creation. Both of those concepts grew out of New York, but New York Roll doesn’t have the same cachet that’s helped make the Philly Roll one of America’s most popular types of sushi.
Avocado may not be the most authentically Japanese sushi ingredient, but few cuisines have incorporated the Mexican superfood so well. With deference to the California roll, no sushi roll represents the happy marriage of avocado and fish better than the caterpillar roll, so named because an entire roll of grilled eel (unagi) is generously topped with slices of pale green avocado flesh, so the whole thing resembles a caterpillar.
The most popular single sushi roll order for the sushi fan who wants it all, the rainbow roll features nearly all of the above. Inside it’s a classic California roll, sometimes made with spicy mayo. But it’s what goes on top that gives this special type of sushi its name. Different colored fish stripe the length of the roll — usually, it’s ahi tuna (red), salmon (orange), yellowtail (pink), red snapper (white), and avocado (green). It’s not technically all the colors of the rainbow, but every bite proves delicious in its own way.