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4.2 out of 5 stars
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I think that those who rated this book on the low side really didn't understand what it was all about.

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.
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93 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I felt compelled to write a review after I saw the one star review from the guy who "should have taken a closer look at the product description." I read this over the weekend after receiving it as a gift. Even though I haven't cooked any recipes, this will undoubtedly will be a great framework on how to make good ramen at home. I love his attention to detail. Temperatures for stock are given to the degree. Everything else is just as precise. Weights are listed (how does one properly measure bonito flakes if not by weight?).

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.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Yes, the biography is a little gratuitous but he has to sell a book, and really...recipes on ramen and the leftovers wouldn't fill a book.
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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Author Ivan Orkin's story of his path to ramen stardom is an interesting tale, even if ramen isn't your thing. More so since it's so unusual to hear of a foreigner breaking the almost impenetrable food world barrier in Japan, and ultimately being accepted enough by the populace to become a part of the ramen fabric there. This is not a cookbook, in the usual sense. There's lots of food information, but not for those interested in the quick and easy path to home ramen enjoyment. Mastering cooking technique is a matter of putting in a lot of time and effort. Orkin certainly did that, but I'm not sure most will be inspired by his tale to take up their own pursuit of the perfect noodle bowl. The recipes are there, but the process is laborious enough, so most will probably opt for something simpler. I think this is a good read for the food/ramen obsessed. Those wishing only to dip their fingers in the ramen broth, as it were, might want to look elsewhere.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Ramen, so delicious with so many variations. Yes, I am a committed fan of ramen. I search for restaurants serving ramen when I travel. I make my own noodles at home. I work on perfecting the right balance for my broth and seasoning. I am a raman addict. So when I saw this book I did my happy dance and clicked the keys to have it in my hands. I got more than I hoped for when I finished 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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Okay, let's skip the autobiography and get to the recipe. Yes, that's right: THE recipe. The recipe for Shiro Ramen is complex, with each ingredient getting its own recipe and the final dish having a specific build size, ratio, and order of compilation. If you can master the ingredients (chicken fat, dashi, double soup, boiled egg, etc) then you not only master this dish, but master a whole range of dishes.

This is what good cuisine is about: mastery of basics. When I studied Italian cuisine I ended up mastering four dishes, which gave me a vast number of options when it came to ad hoc preparations and use of leftovers. For example, if I knew how to make good croutons and good chicken, then I knew how to make a good toasted chicken sandwich.

Ivan Ramen does the same thing for Japanese food - teaching precise yet creative ways to prepare basic items and combine them. If you knew nothing more than how to make what was presented here, you would be able to make excellent tasting Japanese-style food (with a blatant Jewish-American influence) in many variations, dependent on what you have on hand and your level of creativity. There is little more one can hope for from a cookbook.

If you are skeptical I say you at least try Ivan's challenge - he claims if you try his recipe you may mess it up, but it will still taste better than what you've had before. He has unique ideas of how to pull off shiro ramen and he gives you the full recipe, which made him a success. So what do you have to lose?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
First of all, I love many things Japanese, so you can say I am kind of a Japanophile also. So naturally, I love this book and the story behind the man and his ramen. It is as real and as authentic as you can get in terms of showing us what it was like making it in Japan, and showing us how to make a bowl of delicious Japanese ramen.
Ramen is a very unique kind of Japanese food, it has its key components that make up a bowl of so called Ramen, but the sky is the limit when it comes to creating a bowl of ramen of your own, so this shio ramen recipe Ivan decided to share with the world just give us a starting point of where to go from here. I think his idea is not for us to make exactly what he created, but if you are able to do so, you are amazing then, but I assume it is more of a guide to let us explore the world of ramen.
There are other ramen recipes too, and the side dishes are great too, they are all quite inspiring, they gave me some ideas for the ramen shop I planned to open later.
On a side note, I read some of the one star reviews that are just plain silly. This book is not a pure recipes filled cookbook of twenty thousands kind of ramen dishes, it is a book with stories and some recipes, and one super special ramen recipe that brought Ivan his success and fame in Tokyo, Japan, of all places.
Another thing is that the book is not suppose to be a super book that allow you to create ramen of all kinds till eternity, so that you don't have to eat out, and seeking out ramen shops anymore. On the contrary, it is suppose to get you excited about ramen, and urge you to explore ramen, and encourage you to go out and eat more different kinds of ramen, plus give you some inside stories, and demystify certain aspects of the ramen world.
If you decided to do so, you can also embark on the adventure of seeking out special ingredients, and use your ramen loving power, go through all the steps, prepare the dashi, broth, chashu, noodles even...and create a special bowl of authentic ramen.
The only thing I wish to have more of, is more background stories as he shows us all the other dishes, for example, when he teaches us how to make the steamed rice, I wish there were some stories about rice from Japan.
So, if you have an open mind, love ramen, you will love this book, remember, this is not a cookbook per se, and its not an end-all ramen book. I hope Ivan will write more books about his time in Japan in the future.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Ivan Orkin wrote a cookbook as much as he penned a piece on motivation. He wrote about the nuance of subtle, nearly unperceivable flavor as much as he composed a book on survival. He wrote a lesson for cooks as much as he scribed a lesson for living. Ivan Ramen is a timely prescription for bringing refreshing energy into the kitchen; learning about patience; grabbing the cojones of adversity and creating opportunity. From Long Island to the audaciousness of opening a Ramen noodle shop in Tokyo, Orkin recounts his odyssey with colorful acumen, droll narratives and cunning detail.

The first near-hundred pages are autobiographical. And Orkin has something to say. How could he not? He was on the other side of the world with a vision, a proverbial hole in his heart and a mission… no… a dream (yes, I said it!) to get his obsession successfully launched into the material world. Orkin forays into his early relationships with family and food, his meandering kitchen creativity through and outside of Japan, as well as culinary school. Appreciatively, he gives due page space to his creative process and approach to mastering ramen. And if Orkin’s diatribe on consumption doesn’t suffice, David Chang’s foreword offers his, albeit aggressive and colorful, take on what to expect when feeding ramen to Americans, on the eve of Orkin’s opening a New York installation of Ivan Ramen.

The depth and breadth of his signature ramen recipe is a mind-scrambling, facet-sickening, anal-retentive, absurdly grotesque conflagration of beautiful attention to detail that you will probably never unearth. Hefting in at over 30 pages (including pictures) with visual primer, the prescription for his Shio Ramen is, by Orkin’s admission, nearly impossible to replicate for most of us. Orkin masterfully lays out the recipe for modestly novice cooks with patience. He does a great job of ordering the mise en place and then layering the recipe into components to build the final dish. Why impossible? The availability of ingredients is not quite what it needs to be unless you are in, say, Japan. There are myriad recipes for other options and variations on ramen, as well as yakisoba and a smattering of sides and desserts.

If you pick up Ivan Ramen and never venture into the recipe portion, you will be satiated with a worthy dose of good writing, life-lessons and witty tales of adventure, leaving you full of ramen in both psychology and good feelings.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I bought this book for my birthday and cooked everything directly from it. I couldn't get the exact dried fish he called for, so I just grabbed a dried mackerel and dried shrimp from my local Asian grocery store instead. It was still delicious. Don't sweat it if you can't find bonito.

I made everything on the same day. This would have been impossible if I didn't have two slow cookers: one for the pork belly and one for rendering pork fat. Although it was possible, I was cooking from 6 AM to 6 PM. Given that everything is cooked in a liquid, I didn't have to worry that anything would burn which took the pressure off. Still, it was labor intensive and I don't recommend doing it all on the same day unless you enjoy endurance marathons. Doing it over three days as he suggests would work best.

Everyone raved about the ramen. We ate it while watching the movie Tampopo.

My only head-scratcher is that the ramen came out soft even though I followed his directions precisely. I wonder if they would have benefited from a few more minutes kneading in the Kitchen-Aid or a few more passes in the pasta roller... If I wasn't so exhausted from my first few attempts, I might experiment more with the noodles. :)

Don't wear a nice shirt when you eat this soup. Greasy soup splatters are to be expected and planned for.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A captivating read for anyone interested in the nuances of how a proper bowl of ramen is created from the ground up. The first 40% of this book provides an autobiographical look into the creation of Ivan Orkin's mini, ramen-empire with the remainder of the book a thorough and detailed breakdown into each of the 8 made from scratch components (along with featured side dishes and desserts).

Orkin graciously provides the complete blueprint to his signature bowl - Shio (salt) ramen - beloved by discriminating noodle connoisseurs in Tokyo and NYC alike and while the recipes are articulate and reasonably presented most home cooks will likely spectate from the sidelines after examining the effort needed to make proper noodles or seasoned umami salts from scratch. Regardless of whether or not you intend to recreate Orkin's ramen on your own, the entirety of the book is a pleasure to read thanks to Orkin's wit and candor that is well conveyed in written form along with a plethora of pleasing and sincere color photography.
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