The Tokyo "ramentrepreneur" shares recipes and stories in a new book
Ivan Orkin, the New Yorker behind two popular ramen shops in Tokyo —Ivan Ramen (3-24-7 Minami-Karasuyama, Setagaya-ku) and Ivan Ramen Plus (Tanbaya Bldg. 2-3-8 Kyodo, Setagaya-ku)—may be too young (he only turns 50 this year) to be penning an autobiography, but with ramen booming outside of Japan, it’s the perfect time to come out with a cookbook.
In Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint, Orkin unselfishly shares many recipes, including his signature bowls shio (salt) ramen and four-cheese mazemen (noodles with no broth). He talks about how working a part-time job at a Japanese restaurant in high school started him down a path that would lead him to Japan and his moves back and forth between Tokyo and New York City. He also discusses how 3/11 affected his decision to move his family back to America, all in a revealing conversational style.
If you’ve ever wondered why in the world he opened his first restaurant near Rokakoen station on the Keio line in Setagaya, Orkin divulges that his mother-in-law and Chinese feng shui had something to do with it. A big proponent of buying locally, he shares how he works with the other shops in his neighborhood and confirms as true that restaurateurs and chefs do go to Kappabashi to buy pots and pans.
Orkin spoke with Metropolis over the phone from New York City where he is busy opening up two new restaurants. “It’s exciting to give people recipes to work with, and the ramen recipes work. It’s what we use in the restaurant.” He says there was a real lack of information on cooking ramen available in English—or even Japanese—when he opened his restaurant. So for those with the gumption to try making a bowl of ramen at home—including the noodles—Orkin provides plenty of instruction. His shio ramen recipe is a whopping 36 pages including photos.
Orkin says he “obsessed over the eggs.” His half-cooked eggs recipe is timed to the second. Even if you are not ambitious enough to make the whole ramen recipe from scratch, simply adding this to instant ramen at home will be a treat (see recipe). For those who want to make their own noodles, Orkin says that he bought his kansui (alkaline mineral water) at Tokyu Hands. The rest of the ingredients are all readily available.
“My food is classical Japanese with a little twist,” he says. His original recipes include a schmaltz-fried chicken katsu and a chashu Cubano sandwich. If you’ve dined at Ivan Ramen and had the slow-roasted tomatoes over rice, you’ll not only be happy to see the recipe in the book, but also thrilled at how easy it is to make.
Ramen aficionados will appreciate his interviews with Shimazaki-san, one of Tokyo’s master ramen chefs, and Ohsaki-san of Ramen Databank, as well as the minute details of making noodles and the myriad components that comprise a perfect bowl.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint (Ten Speed Press, Oct 2013, 224pp), ¥2,930 available from Amazon.jp.