A California roll is a makizushi, a kind of sushi roll, usually made inside-out, containing cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado. In some countries it is made with mango or banana instead of avocado. Sometimes crab salad is substituted for the crab stick, and often the outer layer of rice in an inside-out roll (ura-maki) is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, tobiko or masago.
As one of the most popular styles of sushi in the US market, the California roll has been influential in sushi's global popularity and in inspiring sushi chefs around the world in creating their non-traditional fusion cuisine.
The California roll may have been created in Vancouver, Canada. Chef Hidekazu Tojo who moved to Vancouver in 1971 from Japan tried to get the local clientele to enjoy sushi. He realized that seaweed turned off Vancouverites, so he turned the roll inside out to hide it. Many visitors from Los Angeles came into his restaurant and enjoyed the new sushi roll, and the name California roll was given. It spread throughout the world.
Another version of the invention of the California roll is attributed to Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef in Los Angeles. He began substituting avocado for toro (fatty tuna), and after further experimentation, the California roll was born. (The date is often given as the early 1970s in other sources.) Mashita realized the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for toro. Traditionally sushi rolls are wrapped with nori on the outside. But Mashita also eventually made the roll "inside-out", i.e. uramaki, because Americans did not like seeing and chewing the nori on the outside of the roll.
After becoming a favorite in Southern California it eventually became popular all across the United States by the 1980s. The roll contributed to sushi's growing popularity in the United States by easing diners into more exotic sushi options. Sushi chefs have since devised many kinds of rolls, beyond simple variations of the California roll.
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