Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint (Anglais) Relié – 29 octobre 2013
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First off, congratulations on—and thank you for—this book. Back when I was a twenty-nothing noodle-slurping lost sheep wandering from ramen shop to ramen shop, trying to decode the secrets of the soup, there was nothing like this in English, or maybe in any language. There is so much essential, indispensible information here for readers who want to learn something about ramen beyond the instructions on the side of the Styrofoam bowl. And then there’s your story, which is beyond remarkable: I couldn’t get a job in a decent shop when I was in Japan. You’ve broken through the ramen barrier in Tokyo, put your name on the map. Incredible.
And now you’re going to open a shop in New York! Well, let me be the first to congratulate you on a terrible decision. Here’s the best advice I can give you about trying it back home:
1. Do you know the classic 1992 Wesley Snipes–Woody Harrelson buddy basketball movie White Men Can’t Jump? Of course you do! What you might not know is that your next year is going to be an infinite loop of a sad variation of that film: White Men Can’t Eat Ramen.
When you put a hot bowl of ramen in front of most Americans—white or otherwise—they will wait for it to cool down. It defeats the purpose, but they do not know this. It’s the equivalent of ordering a burger, and then when it comes, you don’t touch it! You wait for it to cool down, the lettuce to wilt, the cheese to congeal.
Americans think it’s rude to slurp noodles. They have no concept that the noodles are continuing to cook in the soup. They have no concept that they should drink the soup first. And they will think the soup is too salty! They don’t understand that the soup is part of the noodles.
I know this. I’ve seen thousands and thousands of bowls at Momofuku. People have been leaving behind noodles before it was cool to be gluten free.
These will be your customers!
2. Prepare to compromise.
I’ve been to ramen shops in Tokyo. It’d be nice to serve sixty people a day in a twenty-seat restaurant, two bowls at a time. You won’t be able to do it like that here. The economics of New York are different.
While you can sell ramen relatively expensively in Japan, you can’t do it in America. People will unblinkingly pay $20 a plate for spaghetti pomodoro— which is just canned tomatoes and boxed pasta—but they will bitch to the high heavens about forking over $20 for a bowl of soup that requires three or four or five different cooked and composed components to put together. Plus, you will rake yourself over the coals looking for ingredients that even approximate what you can buy down the alley from your shop in Tokyo.
You’ll have to find a way to make food faster, and that means doing some things that may be sacrilegious in Japan. You’ve gotta make the compromise between having the soup hot, but not so hot that people can’t eat it. If you serve dishes with ramen, it’s going to slow the experience down. People will have a conversation instead of eating. That’s the main difference. In Tokyo, if you go to a really good ramen-ya, you hear nothing but slurping. In New York, people want to chat over their soup! It is unthinkable to those of us who have prayed at the altars of the ramen gods, but it is a reality you must confront.
3. Get ready for the most ridiculous complaints ever known to mankind.
You should shave your head now so that you have no hair to pull out when the Internet gets revving on you.
Get ready for criticism from the whole Asian demographic. Half the food bloggers in the world are Asian women. You’re going to be their bread and butter. They’re going to laugh at you and yell at you. They will be upset that your food isn’t “authentic” or that it’s not Japanese enough.
White people will say, “I’ve lived in Japan, and this isn’t authentic.” You’re never going to have seen so many people express their feelings. Everybody is going to have their opinion on what Japan is. They may not have been to Japan, but you know what? They might have dated somebody from Japan.
People are going to look at you like this weird thing, like the Eminem of ramen. I can almost get away with doing ramen because I’m Asian. You’re probably fucked.
Fifty percent of people will be cheering for you, and the other 50 percent will want you dead. Get ready to accept that people hate you and want nothing but your demise. Use it as fuel.
4. It’s like in Band of Brothers when the guy says, “The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead.”
When I opened up, people in New York didn’t know anything about ramen at all. The funny thing is, people know even less about ramen today. New York is so far behind the world of contemporary ramen in Japan— a world I can’t quite fathom how you conquered or why you’re leaving.
What I originally loved about ramen shops in Japan was that it was a whole fascinating world. I can eat something really delicious for ten or fifteen bucks. It’s exactly like going to In-N-Out and knowing the secret menu. Once you’re in the know, everything’s good. You know what to order.
What drew me to cooking ramen was—and I hate to use this term— the punk aesthetic. It was a contrarian stance. You take something deemed by the world as junk food and pour passion into it, and make it the most delicious food possible. In that conflict is what I love about ramen. At the end of the day, it’s just soup and noodles. It’s one of the simplest forms of food, but also the most beloved. And of course you know that. You’re making Jewish comfort food through a Japanese lens.
And down there on the Lower East Side, where Jewish chicken soup has roots more than a century old, you will slowly build an audience that understands your soup.
Americans will fail you more times than you can anticipate, but if you’re smart and steeled and shrewd—or maybe just incredibly fucking lucky—you will get what you’re looking for: your customers.
There will be babies born and nourished on your food. One day they’ll be nine years old, and it’ll be really weird: they will have formed memories in your restaurant, on your ramen. They will learn to eat the way you want them to. You will learn from them.
You’re feeding people, you’re going to bring people a lot of joy. It’s a heavy-duty thing when you get past all the bullshit. But do not underestimate the bullshit.
PS: Once you open the restaurant, all of the emails you will ever get will look like this: Can I have a reservation for 6 people at the ramen counter at 8:30 tonight? I know it’s Saturday and you just got reviewed but I’m coming in with this great group of . . .
Revue de presse
—Danny Bowien, James Beard Award–winning chef of Mission Chinese Food
"We are all fortunate that a young Ivan Orkin, growing up in 1970s suburban Long Island, fell in love with Japanese food. If he hadn’t, the world would never know Ivan’s amazing ramen, one of the most powerfully delicious noodle soups on the planet."
—Chad Robertson, James Beard Award–winning chef, author, and co-founder of Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine
"Ivan has dedicated his whole life to understanding and creating the perfect bowl of ramen, and he has mastered the two most critical elements: the noodles and the broth. He consistently delivers the best bowls I’ve experienced in my life. Completely authentic, completely delicious."
—Ming Tsai, James Beard Award–winning chef, author, and owner of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon
“What Ivan Orkin does not know about noodles is not worth knowing.”
—Anthony Bourdain chef, author, and host of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
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Having had ramen-ya's in Osaka, I can understand the fanaticism surrounding this noodle. There is so much more to ramen than the instant packages you can get 10 for whatever...
For all home chefs, you remember the day you had your "AHA!" moment. I did with this cook book. His friend's comment on why no one was about to impart to Ivan the secrets of making ramen is that they only knew what they were taught and never actually THOUGHT about what made that bowl special or even contemplated on making something based on personal desire and taste.
I've always wanted to make ramen from scratch. And this book REALLY had me THINKING about what I really was contemplating on doing. Making my OWN signature bowl with the things I really LOVE about ramen all in one spot.
My whole outlook on home cuisine has changed dramatically.
I've been a biochemist for most of my adult life, only switching my focus on completely new pathways in the last five years. It's time to break out my bench notebook and start working on a new and exciting project, one I'll be working on for the rest of my unusual life.
Life is uncertain, as Ivan pointed out. Having been through some bad earthquakes myself and helping my friends dig their homes out after the Kobe Earthquake, well, a bowl of ramen really was more than a bowl of ramen back then. It's life-affirming.
So I really did get it. A lot more than I had anticipated, so I feel this book was worth every single cent and then some.
PS: Planning to host a Ivan Ramen Night. Will be parceling out each component out to fellow foodie friends, and for one night only, we'll assemble the whole shebang, and ACTUALLY be able to spend time eating and laughing rather than frantically rushing about the kitchen trying to get everything out... I'll let you know how it goes!
31 December 2013:
Okay, we all decided to make our yearly New Year's Eve party something to really remember. Tonight was our Ivan Ramen Night!!! Man, I would want to do this at least monthly! It was really great with the least painful way to put together this great bowl of noodles. I took photos. Won't be able to put them here like I would like it, because I go crazy on layout and photos. Can't do it here at Amazon... let's get back to the subject at hand.
Took us less than an hour before we started serving yummy ramen. I also had made some black garlic oil if you wanted it in your bowl. I have had it this way, and I loved it!! The noodles were stunning -- and I made these all by myself! So now I can do this as often as I want. And I do like making homemade pasta. It soaks up the flavors wonderfully. I was amazed on how great the broth was. I definitely want to make my own magick fish dust. I could use this in many recipes I make. The problem is that this is an expensive ingredient. But it is cool to have a grating box exactly like Iron Chef Morimoto.
I highly recommend that if you want to do "the ramen", parcel out the job to fellow foodies. Now that I know what this all tastes like, I can replicate this all by myself easily. It won't assemble itself. I'll give myself at least a week.
My only change? I love the pork in this recipe. It would cause a HUGE imbalance, but I'd rather have 2-3 slices. And I LOVE hard-boiled eggs. At least 2 here.
We decided to do something very different. It's like Evening at the Improv as we each described how we made in the most humorous way possible. I'm glad I digitaped this. It was hysterical!
So it's almost 23:00. We're all fat and sassy with too much ramen. However, I know what happens to ramen after you've even a huge bowl of it. You'll want something decadent and deep-fried. So we're having deep-fried cilantro shrimp rolls. I've also thawed out some really great honey-smoked salmon from Peninsula Seafoods. I've turned it into smoked salmon rangoon with a fine dipping chili sauce -- 1 part chili sauce and 1 part plum jelly. Yummy!
I do highly recommend putting together this meal of ramen with friends who love ramen, too.
Here's what the book isn't: a Japanese cookbook. It's the author's story of going to Japan as well as his recipe for ramen and a few other recipes for what to do with leftovers from making ramen. That's it.
The only thing I absolutely hated was the preface from David Chang. He basically goes on to berate white Americans for not being able to eat noodles properly and thereby ruining his ramen. The guy sets up shop in NYC and has an incredible reputation as a Chef and doesn't expect to get a bunch of meatheaded, moronic Instagram hipsters that don't know what they are doing?
Living here in Seattle, I can walk into any no name pho joint that is filled with white folks slurping the noodles properly down like Asians. I realize that having David Chang's pompous preface will probably help sell some books, but man he's a dingleberry.
People are complaining that the ingredients are hard to source and takes too long to make? Uh. This is the reason why ramen is $9-11 a bowl. If you spread the process out through several days, it's very manageable. Most of the stuff you can leave it alone on the stove or oven. It's not like a risotto or a roux where you have to stir every second.
What the heck are people expecting? Good ramen is simple, but not easy to make.
If you can't find shaved bonito or dried fish at your local Asian or Japanese supermarket there are MANY online sources where you can buy it.
Ivan, is a Jewish White guy from New York. He studied Japanese lit and when graduated thought he should use it so he moved to Japan. Where he met his first wife and started to discover his destiny. He feel in love with Japan, the people, and the food. They moved back to NY for a while where they had a child. Tragedy struck and his life went into a
spin. He ended up picking up and moving back to Japan where he floundered and slowly rebuilt his life. He also ate a lot of ramen. This quest for the perfect bowl was fascinating to read. His story is important to the bowl he places in front of his customer.
The history of every ingredient, every step has value. His interaction with other great chefs and retailers, it all builds the flavor. This is a book where the history of the soup is impotent to understand to respect the final product. I loved it, his story was never uninteresting.
The recipes while time consuming have been directed in a way to simplify the process with timing. I have included many of his steps into my homestyle bowl and plan of using them all soon. What I love about his recipes is that he pushes you to be creative, make it yours. There is one to die for dessert, Lemon Sorbet. Totally drool worthy according to everyone in my home that has eaten it.