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A spider roll is a type of sushi with a main ingredient of soft-shell crab that has been breaded — usually in tempura batter — deep fried and then wrapped with other ingredients, such as radish, cucumber, sesame seeds and mayonnaise. In most cases, a spider roll is made like traditional sushi with specially mixed sushi rice around the inner ingredients and a sheet of seaweed, or nori, wrapped around the outside. A spider roll often can be cut into small, bite-size medallions like other types of rolled sushi are, but the size of the crab and its combination with other ingredients often means it is considered futomaki-style sushi. For a more dramatic presentation, the sushi roll can simply be cut in half with the legs of the soft-shell crab protruding from the top, sometimes giving it an appearance reminiscent of a spider.
The main ingredient in a spider roll is soft-shell crab. These are crabs that are at a stage of development in which almost the entire body is edible and the usually hard outer shell is very soft. To prepare the crabs for a sushi roll, they can be dipped into a light tempura batter, dredged in flour, or breaded with flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. After this, the crab can be deep fried or pan fried until it is cooked, crisp on the outside, and soft and moist on the inside.
When making the actual spider roll, the cooked crab can be placed whole inside the roll, or it can be chopped into small pieces and scattered over the rice. Other ingredients that can be placed in the roll include cucumber, radish, avocado and green onions. A hot mayonnaise made with miso paste and hot peppers also is sometimes layered in the sushi.
To assemble the sushi, a spider roll can be made in the familiar rolled style with nori on the outside followed by a layer of rice and all the ingredients in the center. Alternately, it also can be made in the uramaki sushi style, in which the ingredients in the center are wrapped in the nori, and then the outside of the roll is wrapped in tightly packed sushi rice. If made in uramaki sushi style, then the final cylinder usually is rolled in another ingredient, such as sesame seeds.
From a presentation standpoint, a spider roll can be cut into small cylinders the way many other types of sushi are. If the crab was used whole to make the spider roll, however, the legs of the crab usually will extend past each end of the roll. Some chefs cut the roll in half and serve it standing on end, with the legs pointing upward. Other times, the roll is cut as normal, with the two end pieces arranged to display the protruding legs to indicate the filling of the roll.
I’m a sushi addict, but I have a friend who has never had sushi and is a little nervous about trying it. I’m pretty sure she will like it once she’s had it, but the idea of raw fish has her a little freaked. I personally go for the sashimi so I’m not as well versed in the actual sushi rolls, so do any sushi lovers out there recommend starting her out on some of the cooked sushi roll options, like a spider roll, or do you think cooking the sushi takes away from a more authentic experience?
I just want to be able to give her some more classic or safer recommendations that won’t scare her away. I’ve also not had soft-shell crabs before; obviously the shell is still on, but is it so soft that you barely notice it or is it still really crunchy?