Many of you asked me what is my favorite sushi roll, and my answer is always Dragon Roll. I really love the crunchy texture of shrimp tempura inside the dragon roll. Since raw sashimi-grade fish is not required for this recipe, small children and pregnant women can enjoy this sushi roll at home!
What is Dragon Roll?
The dragon roll is an inside-out sushi roll, which means nori wraps around the ingredients inside and the sushi rice is on the outside. Typically, there is shrimp tempura and cucumber inside the roll, and thinly sliced avocado is placed on top of the roll resembling the scales of a dragon. There are a few versions of this roll, for example some restaurants put grilled eel (unagi) inside the roll instead of shrimp tempura.
Key Ingredients and Tips to Make Perfect Dragon Roll
These days shrimp tempura is pretty popular and many American grocery stores (Trader Joe’s, Costco, etc) carry frozen shrimp tempura. The frozen shrimp tempura tends to be extra crunchy and it’s quite of bit of work to make it like that at home. Instead all you need to do is put the frozen tempura in an oven (or toaster oven) for 20 minutes or so. While the shrimp tempura is in the oven, you can do most of the prep work.
Of course, you can make shrimp tempura from scratch, and here’s my Shrimp Tempura recipe. Remember that you’ll need 2 shrimp tempuras for each roll you plan to make.
It’s funny to say this, but I feel like the most difficult part of the dragon roll recipe is to find the perfectly ripe avocado. I was very lucky to meet a store staff who selected perfect avocados that will be ready the next day for me, and they truly were!
To choose the perfect avocado for immediate use, look for avocados which skin is darker in color. Then gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. If the avocado yields to firm gentle pressure, it’s ready-to-eat.
If the avocado does not yield to gentle pressure, it is considered still “firm” and will be ripe in a couple of days. If the avocado feels mushy or very soft to the touch it may be very ripe to overripe.
I use Japanese cucumbers which are long and slender. They have few seeds so it’s perfect for sushi rolls. Persian cucumbers are quite similar so they are a great substitute. If you use typical American cucumber, make sure to remove the seeds as it yields too much water inside the rolls.
The word “sushi rice” is sometimes used to refer to Japanese short grain rice outside of Japan, but in Japanese cooking, Sushi Rice (酢飯) means steamed rice that’s seasoned with sushi vinegar and only used for all types of sushi recipes.
Perfectly prepared sushi rice is very important in sushi making. You’ll need Japanese short grain rice (I use Koshihikari), cook properly (according to my recipe), and make sure to season the rice with sushi vinegar.
Another important part that I can’t stress enough is… please do NOT mash the sushi rice when you put it on nori sheet. When you see sushi roll, you should be able to see individual rice kernel, not mushy rice.
Also many sushi rolls have WAY too much rice compared to the fillings. Balance of rice and fillings is very important. My quick tip is to use a ½-cup measuring cup to fill the sushi rice (don’t mash the rice!) before you put on a nori sheet. That should be enough for half sheet of nori. With the consistent amount of sushi rice for each roll, all of your sushi rolls will be even size!
I use half sheet of nori for this recipe. If you make a few rolls and feels that it’s too short for you to roll, you can increase the nori size to 2/3 sheet. But with 2/3 nori sheet, you will required to put more rice, and your sushi roll will be bigger (fatter). Just practice a few rolls and you should be able to make sushi roll with half sheet of nori.
All you need is two ingredients for this amazing sauce! Please use Japanese mayonnaise for this recipe (you can buy from Amazon). I believe it makes a difference for the final flavor. And with the leftover Japanese mayo, you can make Japanese Potato Salad, Sesame Dressing, Mentaiko Pasta, Okonomiyaki, Casesar Salad (Japanese mayo is the key ingredient!), and more!
Although we only need a few tablespoon of unagi sauce, it is nice to serve with this dish. If you can’t find a bottle of unagi (eel) sauce in a local Japanese grocery store, try my Homemade Unagi Sauce recipe. It is delicious and it’s worth making from scratch, especially if you love making Unadon (Unagi Donburi) or Yaki Onigiri. It’s a good condiment to have in your fridge all the time!
I hope I’ve inspired you to start making sushi rolls at home. It’s fun to prepare and eat sushi with your friends and family. If you are still not comfortable rolling your own sushi, remember there is a non-roll sushi called Temaki Sushi (Hand Roll)!
If you try this Dragron Roll recipe, don’t forget to share your picture on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with #JustOneCookbook. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
Other Sushi Recipes:
- California Roll
- Spicy Tuna Roll
- Yellowtail Roll (Negihama Maki)
- Futomaki (Fat Sushi Roll)
- Hosomaki (Thin Sushi Roll)
- Hand Roll
- Temari Sushi
- Inari Sushi
- Cucumber Wrapped Sushi
- Sushi Ginger (gari)
- 1 Japanese cucumber
- 2 avocados
- ½ lemon (optional)
- 2 nori sheets, cut in half crosswise
- About 2 cups prepared sushi rice (each roll needs ½ cup sushi rice)
- 8 precooked shrimp tempura (See the recipe here)
- ⅛ cup (20 oz) Tobiko
- Grilled unagi (eel) (optional)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tsp. rice vinegar
- Bamboo sushi mat
- Plastic wrap
- Sharp knife
- Cut cucumber lengthwise into quarter. Remove the seeds and then cut in half lengthwise.
- Cut the avocado in half lengthwise around the seed and twist the two halves until they separate. Hack the knife edge into the pit. Hold the skin of the avocado with the other hand and twist in counter directions. The pit will come out smoothly.
- Remove the skin and slice the avocado widthwise.
- Gently press the avocado slices with your fingers and then keep pressing gently and evenly with the side of knife until the length of avocado is about the length of sushi roll (length of nori seaweed). If you don't serve the sushi roll right away, I recommend squeezing lemon over the avocado to prevent from changing color.
- Wrap the bamboo mat with plastic wrap and place half of the nori sheet, shiny side down. Dip your hands in tezu (vinegar water) and spread ½ cup sushi rice over the nori sheet.
- Turn it over and put the shrimp tempura, cucumber strips, and tobiko at the bottom end of the nori sheet. If you like to put unagi, place inside here as well.
- From the bottom end, start rolling nori sheet over the filling tightly and firmly with bamboo mat until the bottom end reaches the nori sheet. Lift the bamboo mat and roll over.
- Place the bamboo mat over the roll and tightly squeeze the roll.
- Using the side of knife, place the avocado on top of the roll.
- Place plastic wrap over the roll and then put bamboo mat over. Tightly squeeze the roll until the avocado slices wrap around the sushi. Be gentle so you won’t break the avocado slices.
- Cut the roll into 8 pieces with knife. Clean knife with wet towel after each cut. If the roll got messy while cutting, tightly squeeze the sushi roll again with the bamboo mat. Remove the plastic wrap on top of the sushi and transfer to a serving plate.
- Put tobiko on each piece of sushi and drizzle spicy mayo and sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. If you like, put some unagi sauce on the plate so you can dip the sushi. Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: Original post was published in June 2013. The post is updated with new content and video in April 2016.