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Get Your Roll On

Josh takes on sushi making

From grocery stores to specialty restaurants, you can find sushi all across the city in multiple flavors and sizes. While this culinary art form can be made at home, I bet most of us are intimidated, not knowing where to start. How would we? To be completely candid, whenever I order sushi from a restaurant I ask the chef to surprise me, not paying attention to the preparation until it’s a finished product. So when approached with the task of preparing sushi, I reached out to Josh ‘Ninja’ Fleniken, head chef at Rock-n-Sake, to demystify the process.

He took me behind the counter to create one of their signature pieces, the Tiger roll. Formerly known as the LSU roll, it consists of tempura (fried) shrimp, cream cheese, crabmeat; topped with avocado, tuna, eel sauce and sesame seeds — truth be told, he had me at fried shrimp. You’ll need a few non-edibles to help you in your sushi-making endeavor, as well. Grab a bamboo mat, plastic wrap and a sharp knife.

To begin any roll, you start with your wrap (the common ones being seaweed or Nori and rice paper). We chose Nori because it’s common and I don’t hate seaweed. The rectangular piece is laid out and then covered by you guessed it—rice. We grabbed a mushy ball of it and gently spread out the vinegared rice to the edges before flipping it over. From there, you layer the cream cheese, crabmeat and fried shrimp down the middle, and wrap that sucker up by grabbing the edges making a rice log. Top the sushi with an alternating diagonal pattern of sliced tuna and avocado. Next, grab the bamboo mat to help form the sushi into its traditional cylindrical shape, and then cover the log with plastic wrap before cutting it into eight bite-sized pieces. Before plating, use the bamboo mat again to reform and clean it up — due to my hatch job of knife skills, my roll looked a hot mess before this final step, whereas Josh’s resembled a sharp masterpiece. The final step includes configuring the pieces in a fashionable design, drizzling the eel sauce, and doing your best salt bae impression with the sesame seeds.

Other random tips:

• Massage your hands (or gloves) with a water and vinegar mixture to keep from the food sticking to your hands

• Add wasabi and ginger to your plate, should you actually want to use it

• Experiment with chopsticks. It’s OK if you aren’t a pro; just don’t treat them as drumsticks

After taking about 25 minutes to make my roll—it’s usually 5 minutes or less—I have so much more respect for culinary professionals of all backgrounds. They work with the best ingredients and allow their imagination to come alive on the plate. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a California or crunchy roll, but next time you’re in the mood for sushi (let’s be honest, we all go on two week streaks), don’t limit yourself. Sushi chefs like Josh truly enjoy customizing to your liking and creating something you didn’t realize you needed.

Photos by Sean Gasser

Josh Howard

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