How The California Maki Came To Be

An Interesting Story of Innovation

Who doesn’t or has not heard about the California Maki? A California maki or roll is a traditional sushi roll made inside out. So instead of seaweed wrapped around the roll, it is wrapped in rice. California roll ingredients usually include cucumber, avocado, and crab meat or imitation crab. It’s now a world-famous delicacy that most know as created in Japan. But, it’s interesting to note that it took root all the way in North America.

There were at least three theories about where and who invented the beloved sushi roll. The most popular is that one out of Vancouver, Canada by a Japanese chef named Hidekazu Tojo. After training as a chef in Japan, Tojo moved to Vancouver in 1971 and opened his first restaurant in 1988 – Tojo’s. He discovered that sushi was unpopular and few Canadians and Americans had a taste for hand rolls and sashimi. When served sushi, his customers would peel off the seaweed nori and discard it. He also struggled to find fresh sushi-grade fish, available fish was not as fresh or of high quality. So Tojo realized he had to adjust.

His sushi invention included cucumber, cooked crab, and avocado. There was no mayonnaise or sesame seeds yet. The original California roll was wrapped traditional style, with the nori seaweed was on the outside. So Tojo invented the “inside-out” roll (called uramaki version), which was something against the Japanese tradition. But his customers love it! He called it the California roll as many of his dining customers were from Los Angeles. For many North Americans, their first introduction to sushi was most likely the ubiquitous California Roll.

Tojo’s creation might be unorthodox but he still created other dishes that draws on traditional Japanese culinary techniques and has helped raise the profile of Japanese food around the world. After decades of making the iconic sushi rolls, Tojo was awarded by the Japanese government as one of only 13 overseas ambassadors for Japanese cuisine.

Sushi Rolls and More at AJI Sushi & Grill Issaquah

At AJI Sushi, sushi restaurant in Issaquah, find an array of innovative, delectable sushi selections, hand-crafted by our top-notch chef, including our California Maki. We are creative yet we keep tradition alive in our casual, comfortable surroundings.