Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
Expected publication: Oct. 29, 2013 by Ten Speed Press
This half-biography/half-cookbook completely turned my American version of ramen on its head. I have been completely clueless about what "real" ramen is supposed to be. I have been used to the 15-cents-a-package version you boil for three minutes, add the powdered flavor and away you go!
Real ramen, I've learned is not this AT ALL. Ramen is a near religion for some in Japan. It is an intensely precise and patience-demanding endeavor. If you're looking for very authentic Japanese noodle recipes, this is a great book. ‘Cause these recipes take a bit longer than three minutes.
I am a ramen neophyte and was hoping to get some good beginner noodle recipes from this book – something accessible. After reading it, though, I'm not sure I can actually embark on the journey Orkin presents – the recipes are definitely for an ambitious, intermediate-to-advanced cook, who is well-versed in Asian cuisine and terminology.
Orkin recommends making the first recipe – shio ramen – over the course of a week! He freely admits that his recipes are “daunting,” but doable with patience. He starts his “gold standard” shio ramen recipe by first laying out the recipe, and second, defining each component that is included in recipe. There are eight. And each of these eight components has a recipe of its own – all from total scratch. Home cooks will find this approach frustrating and unrealistic for families busy with homework, soccer, and dance and tae kwon do lessons.
But for an experienced cook with time and ambition to spare, this book is perfect. It allows a cook to revel in the history, flavor and energy each ingredient brings to the table – or pot in this instance.
Orkin also provides many recipes to use up all those hard-earned – and now leftover – ingredients from the shio ramen. All look to be about the same difficultly level as the shio ramen.
Some of the ingredients – actually most – are hard-to-find. Orkin provides a resource page at the end of the book to point you in the right direction to obtain these elusive ingredients. The main idea: The Internet is your friend.
One big complaint I have with the prose is that the language is too lowbrow and features waaay too many curse words. Ramen is treated in such a highbrow manner in this book; it just seems disrespectful for the author to debase his passion with base words. It lowers the quality of the entire book.
I loved the photos found inside, although I wish there were more of them. Cookbooks can never have too many photos in my opinion.
I can recommend this cookbook to those wanting to try challenging recipes with a splendid payoff.
Thank you NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for allowing me to review this book.