Making Colorful Sushi with Rham Fenton of Ramasushi

Expert Tutorial

Continuing the Kitchn’s recent series of sushi posts, we spent some time in the kitchen with Rham Fenton, a very skilled, albeit unconventional sushi expert who gave us some techniques and inspiration for at-home sushi making.Rham started making sushi professionally some 20+ years ago when he was a surfer by day in Virginia Beach. Rham initially worked on fishing boats and then soon found a home at the various sushi bars along the boardwalk. He began by making rice and then quickly learned that he had a way with sushi and sushi customers, bringing in ample tips while working the open sushi bar.

Rham followed the waves to California where he worked at Saskas on Mission Beach, followed by a series of other restaurants including the Hyatt in San Diego. More than 15 years later, he moved back to the East Coast. After working at various New York restaurants including Matsuri, he opened his own sushi concessions at two restaurants on the Jersey shore, The Labrador Lounge and the Langosta Lounge. In addition to running the restaurants, he also caters private parties, specializing in parties of 100 and up, but recently doing smaller parties from 2-17 people.

Rham also runs sushi classes. In his classes, he teaches how to prepare and cut fish, how to substitute vegetables for the more traditional fish rolls and “how to roll to impress.”

What is atypical about Rham, apart from the fact that he is not Japanese, is that he has a very laid-back, non-dictatorial style to sushi making: anything goes. A former vegetarian, he loves inventing vegetarian combinations and adding flavor and depth through lemon, ginger and different sauce alternatives to soy. He uses red rice instead of white in his vegetable rolls for color and interest.

Rham uses a Japanese mandoline to slice vegetables finely. He likes both the traditional style slicer as well as the turning vegetable peeler from Benriner that makes long, spaghetti-like strands.

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Sushi-Making Tips from Rham Fenton

Here are a few of Rham’s sushi-making tips:

• When making rice in a rice maker, place your palm flat on top of the rice (leveled) without pressing down and add water to reach the top of your knuckle for white rice or just below the wrist bone for brown rice. Once cooked, kernels should burst but not dissolve.

• Rham often seasons his rice with some alternatives to the traditional salt and rice vinegar mix: a slice of lemon, a piece of konbu or some apple cider vinegar simmered with a flavor-enhancer like apple, ginger, brown sugar or kafir lime leaves. He sometimes cooks rice with beet juice to create an interesting presentation

• When putting rice on the nori, aim for a portion that is smaller than a baseball but larger than a golf ball. Spread rice evenly, leaving 1/4 inch around the ends so that when rolled, the rice does not seep out the sides.

• Wrap rolls in cellophane before shaping with a bamboo mat: this will keep your mat clean and help hold the roll together when sliced. When you tighten the rolls with your mat, hold both sides with one finger to keep the mat tight against the roll.

• Add additional flavor at the end by squeezing the juice from a lemon or freshly grated ginger over the top.

Rham prepared a number of different rolls for us including a variation on the “Soleado Roll” (pictured in slide show and on the menu at Langosta Lounge), which includes red radish, beet, carrot and cucumber wrapped in sweet potato and avocado.

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Recipes

Soleado
(meaning sunny in Spanish)

Brown rice, cooked
4 red radishes, julienned
1 sweet potato, cooked
1/2 avocado
1 slice cucumber

Roll cucumber, avocado, and radish inside nori rice mat. Slice cooked sweet potato and wrap the outside of the roll. Lay plastic over top and use bamboo mat to tighten. Leave plastic on and cut in 8 to 10 pieces. Enjoy!

LA Roll

Brown rice, cooked
3 shrimp 16/20 size, steamed in beer and Old Bay Spice
5 pineapple chunks, squeezed in a paper towel
1 cucumber
2 sticks of pepper, either red or green
2 kumquats, thinly sliced

Love Roll

Brown rice, cooked
2 shiitake mushrooms
4 red radishes, julienned
1 sweet potato, cooked
1/2 avocado
1 cucumber

Sauce

3 tablespoons honey or agave
1 tablespoon of black bean paste
1/2 clove cooked garlic
1 Hershey kiss

Want to know more?

Thanks so much for the great tutorial, Rham! Want to know more about Rham or schedule a class?

• Contact Rham at Ramasushi

More Sushi Posts:
What Exactly Is Sushi?
A Roundup Of Sushi-Making Essentials
How To Make A Sushi Hand Roll
How To Make DIY Spicy Tuna Sushi
Try This: Umeshiso Maki Sushi

(Images: Sabra Krock of Sabra Krock Photography)

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