Guys, I know you’re going to LOL at me when I say this… but I believe we are in the midst of a ramen renaissance. Okay I know what you’re thinking, “all the sodium she’s ingested has finally gone from preserving her insides to her brain!” Well, at this rate honestly who knows and quite frankly it's irrelevant. Back to the matter at hand: The Ramen Renaissance. Evidence: 1) over the summer there was this thing called a ramen burger that got everyone all worked up. 2) Three anthropologists published their thoughts on how instant ramen noodles can help solve world hunger. 3) Bloggers across the interwebz are touting ramen as one of the hot food trends to watch of 2013. In my quest for ramen-related books to read, I encountered nothing but noodle cookbooks. I did not want to read a cookbook. I was looking for a narrative, to get into the psyche of an obsessive. So you can imagine my immense delight when I came across Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint. As this occurred weeks in advance of its release date, best believe I pre-ordered that shit with one-click. For what it's worth coming from little ol' me - amateur ramen blogger Jamie Li - the publication of Ivan Ramen has officially ushered in The Ramen Renaissance of North America.
Grandiose statements aside, this hybrid memoir/cookbook details Orkin's (a Jewish-American from upstate New York) journey of ramen obsession and everywhere it has taken him; from his early days working as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant near his hometown to the grand opening of Ivan Ramen and Ivan Ramen Plus in Tokyo and every detail of heart-rendering shortcomings and successes along the way. In the second half of the book, Orkin provides the exact recipe to recreate his signature shio ramen dish, down to every. last. painstaking. detail. For example, Orkin tells you exactly how long to prepare eggs for to achieve the perfect soft boil down to the second (6 minutes and 10 seconds to be exact). All quantities are given in metric units for extra precision. The book isn't very accessible for the everyday chef - pretty much every major ingredient is expected to be made from scratch - but I found his attention to detail incredible. And as if that wasn't enough, Orkin had the forsight to include recipes in which to use the extra leftover ingredients (of which you'll have plenty) to make apps and other noodle dishes.
Attempting this shio ramen is not for the meek. If you are looking for a basic ramen cookbook, look elsewhere for there are more than enough of those. Ivan Ramen was an absolute delight. I loved getting to know the person behind the brand and got to appreciate his journey. Reading this book allowed me to understand Orkin on a personal level and likewise it seems like if I ever met him, he would get me too. Case in point, my favorite line in the entire book (on devouring ramen): "You have to eat it while the fat is still smoking hot and the noodles are still chewy. You take a big airy slurp so that all the flavors come together as they enter your mouth. You get into a rhythm, and then, oh my god, it's fucking gone" (94). YES IVAN. YOU UNDERSTAND ME.
Beyond excited to try Ivan Ramen after it opens on my next trip to New York City.