California Roll Salad with Farro and Pearl Couscous. Like the California sushi roll but in salad form with farro and couscous in place of the traditional sticky rice. This salad is so GOOD.
This California roll salad is a few years in the making. I first had it from a small poke shop on the Big Island of Hawaii years ago. One of those amazingly fresh little hole in the wall shops that you have to go to when visiting there. Da Poke Shack. The had poke plates of one to two kinds of poke and one to two sides. Or more of each if you were really hungry. They also had other plates such as kalua pork or lau lau.
I always got spicy tuna, and either a shoyu or limu poke, or whatever special they had that day. They always have a poke of the day - whatever the chef is inspired to make that day. Ahi tuna is the main fish for almost all of the poke choices, but they had so many to choose from. They also have scallops, tako ( aka octopus), shrimp, and other non-tuna choices.
The sides they have are a variety of salads such as seaweed and mac salad as well as sticky rice and California roll salad. Which I got every time we stopped by. I couldn't get enough of it. It was so different using farro and pearl couscous ( also known as Israeli couscous) instead of traditional white sticky rice. They also have a few different kinds of kimchi such as traditional cabbage, cucumbers ( my fave).
I ordered the California Roll Salad from Da Poke shop so many times that I picked it apart to see what all the ingredients were and I asked the shop what all was in it. I knew I wanted to make again and again when we got home from vacation.
What ingredients are in California Roll Salad?
- Imitation crab - You can use real crab here if you like, I went with a high quality imitation crab which flakes really nicely for this salad. Most California rolls use imitation crab as it is so this is why I went with it.
- Farro - a rich, nutty grain. Adds a really nice flavor along with a little crunch and texture to the salad
- Pearl couscous ( also known as Israeli couscous) - a little round pasta that has a nice chew to it. I love using this kind of couscous in many recipes. It is fantastic in this salad
- Vegetables - carrot, cucumber, sweet onion, green onion. Carrot isn't usually used in a California sushi roll, but it was in the salad from the poke shop and I loved the taste and texture it added. Same with the sweet onion and green onions.
- Furikake - a Japanese seaweed seasoning with sesame seeds. I use it on everything from rice to popcorn to salads.
- Avocado - a must have with anything California roll. I used two Haas avocados from Rincon Tropics. The BEST avocados ever.
- Dressing - I made a super light dressing out of soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin ( a Japanese cooking win) and a little sugar. Its perfect for this salad and adds in the seasoning usually found in sushi rice.
- Kewpie mayonnaise - some California sushi rolls have either a solid piece of crab or it is shredded in a mayonnaise based dressing. The crab gets mixed with this before being added to the salad.
How do you make California roll salad?
- There are a few steps to this recipe. But most is just chopping and shredding ingredients.
- I start by rinsing and soaking the farro. It then gets cooked, it takes about 30 minutes to cook in lightly boiling water. I get this going while I prep the rest of the ingredients. You can always prep and cook the farro the day before assembling the salad since it needs to be cooled before adding the rest of the salad ingredients.
- The couscous doesn't take as long to cook, it doesn't require rinsing, so I will make this the same day as the salad. Allowing it to cool completely as well.
- I love love love my julienne peeler. Its one of my nifty relatively inexpensive kitchen tools that I use to shred veggies quickly for salads. You can also use a box grater if you don't have a julienne peeler. I much prefer the peeler since it is quicker and I like the size of the veggie shreds.
- Sweet onion - I will roughly chop then finely chop using a mini food processor. You can also use a box grater for this step as you want really finely minced onion with its juices. This enhances the flavor and texture of the salad.
- The dressing ingredients get whisked together, the crab gets finely shredded and mixed with the kewpie mayo.
- Once the farro and couscous are cooled, all the veggies are prepped you mix it all together in a large mixing bowl. Save the avocado until just before serving.
I left the crab in larger flakes, but you can finely shred it even more if you like. Make sure the crab is fully thawed first.
Right before serving I will dice up the avocado and mix it in. This way the avocado stays super fresh. I also use avocado that are more on the firm side of ripe so they don't mush when the salad is mixed.
This salad is amazing on its own or as a side for anything really from poke to any kind of baked or grilled fish, it would be excellent served with salmon.
California Roll Salad with Farro and Pearl Couscous
A whole grain take on the California Roll in salad form with nutty Farro and chewy pearl couscous. A light soy and vinegar dressing to round out the flavors. This salad quick is to make and perfect as a light lunch or side dish to a main course.
For the salad
- 1 cup dry farro (208 grams) * see notes
- 1 cup dry Israeli couscous ( 150 grams) *see notes
- 1 cup Carrot, finely shredded (150 grams)
- 1 cup Japanese or Persian cucumber, peeled and finely shredded (133 grams)
- ½ cup Sweet onion, about half a medium, finely minced (26 grams)
- 1 bunch Green Onions (scallions) about 10-12 onions, light and dark green parts only, finely chopped
- ½ pound Imitation crab, thawed and flaked or shredded (226 grams)
- 2 Tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons Japanese Furikake
- 2 medium Haas avocados - about 1 pound (453. grams)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar ( not sweetened) (57 grams/ml)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Mirin (Japanese cooking rice wine - not sake)
Cook farro and couscous to package directions for whatever brand you use. I used Bob’s Redmill and these are the instructions for theirs:
Rinse and soak the farro. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil with a pinch of kosher salt. Add the farro and bring back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and rinse with cool water, set aside to cool completely.
For the couscous, heat one tablespoon of oil or ghee in a saucepan and add the couscous and stir for one minute. Add one and a half cups of boiling water and bring to a boil, lower the heat and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir and let cool completely, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.
Peel and shred the carrots and cucumber. Mince the onion in a food processor or shred using a box grater. Finely dice the dark and light green parts of the green onion.
In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked and cooled farro, couscous with the carrot, cucumber, sweet onion and most of the green onion, saving some green onion for garnish.
Add In the furikake and stir.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and add that to the salad and mix.
Shred the crab and mix with the Kewpie mayo then add to the salad and mix.
Keep chilled until ready to serve. When ready to serve, cut two avocados in half, remove the pits and skin. Finely dice then add to the salad. Serve.
Prep and cooking times are approximate. It takes the farro about 20 min to soak then 30 min to cook. Cooling depends on if you rinse with cold water or let it sit. Same with the couscous, which cooks faster but takes a little while to cool. You could briefly rinse the couscous with cold water, but you don't want to remove much of the starch.
Farro and Israeli Couscous will have varying cooking directions according to package or brand. If you buy in bulk, following the instructions above will work best. Farro is best rinsed and then soaked before cooking. Soaking for 20 minutes is fine. You can soak overnight if you like.
When I normally make farro or couscous for savory dishes I will use broth or stock in place of water. I used water here because I didn’t want the stock flavor to overpower the salad since the dressing is very light.
This salad will keep well for a few days kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If it’s your first time making this recipe then make sure you read all of the information in the main post as it includes lots of additional tips, as well as the answers to some common questions.
If you have any further questions then do let me know in the comments and or email me [email protected] and I’ll do my best to help.
If you choose to make substitutions to the recipe that I have not tested yet please do so at your own risk, if they are successful I would love to hear about it and will add to my recipe notes for other readers to try as well.
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