Who invented California Roll?
California Roll has become the iconic Sushi item in the US and the rest of the world. As far as I know, from working at about ten different Japanese/Sushi Restaurants in the US, it is the most popular item on the menu. Even at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, it is one of the most visible Sushi items next to Spicy Tuna and Rainbow Roll. So, who invented California Roll, and how did it become so popular? The story I heard was that one day, a Sushi chef at Sushi bar in Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) was asked the special of the day by a regular customer. Since the chef had no special on that day, after thinking for a while, he added Avocado, which was a "unusual" item at that time, to crab hand roll. The customer liked it so much that it became a regular item on the menu. In finding out, it turned out that the story I knew was wrong. It appears now there are two stories (or inventors) for California Roll. Story #1 The most popular story goes to Ichiro Mashita of Tokyo Kaikan in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, circa 1970. It is said that Mr. Mashita substituted the Avocado in place of Toro for its rich oily flavor. Traditional Japanese roll is seaweed out and Americans disliked the taste of chewing and texture of nori seaweed, which led to the invention of "Uramaki": The inside-out roll. There is an interesting trivia about American not fond of nori. I read an article that scientists found out Japanese people "acquire" enzymes in their stomach to help digest seaweed. Americans, on the other hand, lack these enzymes because their diet does not contain seaweed. So for Americans, seaweed is difficult to digest, which (sort of) explains the reason why they did not like it in the first place. How did Mr. Mashita think of adding Avocado? Another story says that one of his regulars asked him to make Sushi for Caucasians. At that time, most Americans never heard of Sushi, let alone eat raw fish. So, Mr. Mashita thought of Avocado for its low cost and never-ending abundant year supply. Story #2 Now, this came as a shocker to many Sushi fans. This second story came out in 2012: this article by The Globe and Mail, "Meet the man behind the California roll" - a Canadian Sushi Chef (he is a Japanese chef living in Canada), Hidekazu Tojo claimed HE is the inventor of California Roll. According to Mr. Tojo, he thought of using crab for Sushi because fresh fish suitable for Sushi was unavailable in Vancouver when he arrived in 1971. Also, most Westerners disliked eating seaweed, so, he made inside-out roll to hide the flavor. Though against the Japanese tradition of seaweed out roll, many of his customers liked it. Many of Mr. Tojo's customers were from Los Angeles. They loved his crab and avocado roll, hence the name California Roll. I do have to mention that I came across several other stories and inventors of California Roll. For now, I'm sticking with Los Angeles's story, but then, it's up to you to decide which one is true. #sushichef #Japanesefood