These rice rolls displaying their fillings in all their multi-coloured glory are injecting Asian flavours into the fast food culture
These rice rolls displaying their fillings in all their multi-coloured glory are injecting Asian flavours into the fast food culture
Photo credit: Roll Out

America may have cornered the market on fast food – we define it as ‘food prepared and served quickly’ here – but Asia looks set to be giving the concept a good shakedown. In the last few months, new food outlets have sprung up, offering an Asian alternative to the burger-and-fries combination. Counting on the Asian penchant for rice, these stalls offer upsized, upgraded versions of the traditional sushi rolls that are speedily made and dispensed on the spot.

For those who do not have the luxury of enjoying long lunches or are looking for a substantial bite on the move, let’s check out some rice roll options.

Letting It All Hang Out

Name: Roll Out

Where: Tampines Mall #B1-K11

Price: From S$3.90

Roll Out is a take-out sushi bar that has taken the idea of the California Roll and put an ingenious spin on it. The traditional version is an inside-out sushi or uramaki in which the nori (edible toasted seaweed) is hidden inside the rice roll instead of being wrapped around it. Usually filled with an assortment of ingredients including crab meat, avocado, mayonnaise and cucumber, the California Roll is coated with fish roe or sesame seeds.

At Roll Out, the rolls are the ultimate inside-out sushi. Ingredients are rolled inside the rice and draped on the outside as well, leaving you with double portion of goodness.

There are quite a few interesting options. The Hainanese is chicken rice in a roll, comprising rice cooked in chicken broth, grated ginger, and poached chicken (now, if only there was a duck rice or char siew rice version). Red Hot Chilli Pincers offers fried snow crab in chilli sauce; Electric Una has eel, sweet kebayaki sauce, cucumbers and tamago ; Emperor of the Sea is salmon sashimi over a traditional California Roll; and The Quack lives up to its name with slices of smoked duck and savoury sauce.

California Comeback Rolls

Name: Rollie Olie

Where: The Star Vista #02-05

Price: From S$12.95

At Rollie Olie, the basic California Roll is given nine unique interpretations. Because they draw their inspiration from the American roll, avocado is a mainstay in each. The best seller is the Sunkissed Salmon with seared salmon, crab meat, tamago , avocado, cucumber, jicama (Mexican yam) and red roe. Bollywood is filled with curry prawn, avocado, cucumber, jicama and tamago, and coated with tempura crunch. Traditionalists will enjoy Dos Amigos which has grilled eel, cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, jicama and red roe. Beachcombers is rolled with deep fried soft shell crab, prawn salad, avocado, cucumber and jicama .

Each roll is cut into eight bite-sized portions. For those who enjoy variety, go for the set meal which consists of four pieces of roll, a salad, and a soup.

Well worth mentioning is the fact that Rollie Olie serves the sushirrito . This American import is the equivalent of the hefty Mexican burrito stuffed chock-a-block with fillings and sushi ingredients. So, instead of flour tortilla wraps, the sushirrito features nori -wrapped rice. But like the burrito, these mega rice rolls are stuffed to bursting. There are two versions: Sassy Salmon filled with spicy salmon, crab meat, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, avocado, cucumber and jicama ; and BFF that replaces the fish with fried prawns.

Each roll is made to order so you can be sure your food comes fresh. Pick a dipping sauce and be pleasantly surprised by unusual concoctions like yuzu mustard and curry mayo.

Seoul Out on Rolls

Name: Seoul Roll

Where: Raffles City #B1-58

Price: from S$4.50

In the early 1900s, sushi made its way from Japan to Korea and became gimbap, or kimbap . Filled with seafood, meat, eggs, fresh or pickled vegetables, then wrapped with kim (seaweed), it is this Korean variation that is being popularised at kimbap kiosk, Seoul Roll. Here, a mouthwatering selection of fillings inspired by Korean dishes is available, with popular options such as bulgogi and spicy pork, as well as anchovies and spicy dried cuttlefish.

For an authentic taste of Korea, try the Seoul Roll which is filled with carrots, radish pickle, burdock root, cucumber, eggs, ham and kimchi . The Bulgogi Roll has bulgogi in place of the ham, while the Spicy Pork Roll packs a kick with Korean spicy pork.

There are eight types of rolls on the menu at the moment but additions of other kinds plus sides are on the way.

To turn the Asian staple of rice with vegetables and meat or seafood into funky fusion fast food is a milestone in culinary creativity. With so many rice roll stores popping up around us, we are surely off to some rolling good times.