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The California roll is a maki-zushi (roll), a kind of sushi, usually made inside-out, containing cucumber, imitation crab stick, and avocado. Sometimes crab salad is substituted for the crab stick, and often the outer layer of rice (in an inside-out roll) is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds or tobiko.
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 origin of the California roll is somewhat murky, but usually food historians credit Ichiro Mashita, sushi chef at the Tokyo Kaikan in Los Angeles with inventing the roll in the early 1970s. Mashita realized the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for the then hard to find toro (tuna belly). He 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 popular in southern California it eventually became popular all across the United States by the 1980s, and is known in Japan as the Kashu-maki. The roll contributed to sushi's growing popularity in the United States by easing diners into more exotic sushi options.
Hidekazu Tojo, now of Tojo's restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., claims to have invented the roll around the same time as Mashita, although he initially called it the Tojo-maki.
On July 20, 2005, a Japanese entertainer and tourism ambassador of California, Gori of Garage Sale, in his popular disguise of a girl named Gorie, made the world's longest California roll in Hollywood. Tourists from Japan helped him make the roll, which reached 30 meters in length.