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The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life Hardcover – May 7, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This funny and idiosyncratic Japanese-fast-food memoir and quasi-spiritual autobiography from NPR commentator Raskin contains at its core, despite its oddball title, a deeply human story. The author grew up on Long Island and attended Wharton business school after college, which led to an internship in Japan and a life-long connection with the country. Over the years, Raskin also got involved with a number of women, without maintaining fidelity or forming a permanent attachment. Relocation to the West Coast and numerous Internet hookups eventually led to therapy and a fellowship, where he began to accept his sexual compulsivity and met the mentor who recommended finding some form of Higher Power. Raskin's unorthodox choice of Momofuku Ando, the nonagenarian inventor of instant ramen and Nissin Food Products chairman, led to several futile attempts to contact and meet him. The result is a painfully humane and hilariously candid journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. At first, the book's intentions aren't explicit, the structure is near confusing, and the narrator's crisis feels shallow. But the various strands eventually weave together into a satisfying whole that becomes a quirky, unique memoir. (June)
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From Booklist

Approaching 40 and still single, Raskin decides he needs help to figure out why he is incapable of being faithful in romantic relationships. He joins a self-help group and, guided by his mentor, begins to write a series of letters exploring his past failures. The man he chooses to address the letters to is Momofuku Ando, the creator of instant ramen noodles, who built an extremely successful empire after losing everything. Raskin’s personal journey takes him to Japan several times, as he tries to cut through endless red tape in order to meet his idol. Along the way, Raskin’s passion for Japanese food takes him to exclusive sushi restaurants with forbidding owners and a ramen restaurant that is known for the perilous nature of its cuisine. Raskin finds his answer in Ando’s philosophy and realizes that in order to quell his demons he is going to have to face them and reassess how he looks at his life. Mixing humor and raw honesty, Raskin’s introspective journey is inspiring and entertaining. --Kristine Huntley

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (May 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592404448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592404445
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Throughout most of this book, I found Andy Raskin to be a horrible human being devoid of any positive or decent characteristics. The man was a compulsive liar, exceptionally egocentric, a jerk to nearly everyone and routinely cheated of women, using them as objects to prop up his nearly non-existent self-esteem.

At the same time, the fact that Mr. Raskin was being that open and honest in an autobiography is rare and worthy of respect. He admits his flaws and his eventual hitting of rock bottom and towards the end of the book we do get to see baby steps towards his regaining some pieces of his humanity. As such the book has little to do with the inventor of instant ramen and is more about a person coming face to face with something very few people are willing or able to do: the realization that they utterly dislike themselves and are not a very good human being.

I was torn by wanting to punch Raskin in the face for his thoughtlessness and his utter inability to understand the Japanese and their culture whilst living amongst them, and being captivating by his brutal honesty and his ability to make you hate so very much through his recounting of deeds he is not proud of.

It's an interesting and somewhat sad journey regarding Raskin's discovery of Momofuku Ando. Due to his addictions and problems, Ando becomes Raskin's psuedo-God in part of his recovery program. At no time does Raskin take Momofuku = God seriously, but he does take his recovery seriously and the letters and commentary he writes to his instant noodle overlord is entertaining.

The fact Raskin pulled no punches about what a scumbag he had been in the past will really make you hate him.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Raskin, for me, wasn't a particularly likeable companion as he goes on a journey of self-discovery that weaves skillfully back and forth in time. What Raskin tries to discover is why he's so habitually unfaithful to his many girlfriends. The sayings and life of Momofuku Ando, the world renowned (ok, Asian renowned) inventor of instant ramen, become Raskin's higher power on his road to recovery.

But a funny thing happened in the final part of the book. Oh, I consistently enjoyed reading about Ando, and I found the asides on Japanese matters (business etiquette, food-themed manga, puns, sushi, museums devoted to ramen or gyoza, and samurai movies) fascinating and often funny. Surprisingly a revelation about Ando's life proves relevant to Raskin's plight. And Ando's Zen like sayings go from seemingly silly business platitudes or personal eccentricities to something profound and useful. They become another example of the transforming wisdom sometimes found in the unlikely places of popular culture or the lives of the eccentric.

Raskin has started an advice column using the sayings and life of Ando. That may be worth a look, and I definitely would like to see him do more Japanese related material.
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Format: Hardcover
Believe me, this memoir is unique. In the beginning it starts out rather obliquely, Raskin, an NPR commentator, is a skillful storyteller with a penchant for Japanese food and culture, but also a compulsive womanizer. How is he going to weave his story together? He eventually shows a penchant for Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen and chairman of Nissin Food Products. Having attended Wharton with a subsequent internship abroad, Raskin became fluent in Japanese and made Ando his unlikely mentor, one whom he never met but admired for his rags/prison/riches saga, whose success bloomed enormously after a year spent in a shed trying to perfect what ended up as flash-fried noodles served in a Styrofoam cup. So, approaching 40 and still single, Raskin decides to join a self-help group. It is never named in the book, but is transparently for sex addicts. His sponsor asks him to appeal to a higher power and Raskin, not apparently religious, nominates Ando. What follows is an account of the author's ostensible letters to Momofuku as he embarks upon a 90-day period of abstinence and a renewed effort to meet him, mixed among delightful accounts of Japanese food adventures. (Sadly, one much-anticipated outing at Ramen Jiro in Tokyo, whose soup was layered with lard, cost him his gallbladder.) But his descriptions of sushi restaurants leave you wishing you had been there chewing in the middle of your mouth to get the best taste possible. There are also amusing accounts about his visit to the Instant Ramen Museum and how he managed to crash Ando's funeral when he died at age 96. Raskin improves in his recovery, despite relapse, and by the end of the book has had a steady girlfriend of six months. At the end he asks, "Have a problem with relationships, career, or life in general?Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Well, there were so many parts of this book I really enjoyed. Very funny and made me laugh.

Other parts, gosh.

Andy, Andy, Andy...he was a very bad boy. VERY bad. And when he was bad, I didn't like him very much. In fact, I wanted very much to throw the book across the room when he repeated AGAIN and AGAIN the same bad behavior. But, he kept getting the girls. Somehow he would keep pulling them in. And that is what Andy did to me; he kept pulling me in. I couldn't stop reading.

I love all things Japanese and I just ate up everything Andy wrote about Japan, the culture and it's people. Oh, and the food! The descriptions and stories around the food were just right!

When I finished reading the book I felt satisfied and pleased that I had read it. It was fun reading about everything Andy did (and had to stop doing) as he moved forward towards redemption.

Well written and frightfully honest. Recommended!
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