Ten Speed Press was kind enough to make this eGalley available, through NetGalley, for the purposes of having it read and reviewed. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.
Me: “Hi, my name is Bert, and I’m a ramen addict.”
Group: “Hi, Bert!”
OK, I have to admit it’s really all noodles, especially Asian ones. I do regularly have a lunch comprised primarily of the 20 cent packs from Wal-Mart, although I only use a minuscule amount of the seasoning and invariably add vegetables, meat and different seasonings. No, it’s not the same as homemade noodles, but it’s the concept and versatility of the dish that I love.
So here I have a book about a Long Island Jew who is similarly addicted to good ramen, who went through culinary school, and, after some bouncing around between jobs and the death of his first wife, eventually remarried, moved to Japan and opened up a ramen shop. But he is doing ramen his way, infusing a little bit of his culture and creativity while still being true to the concept of ramen. Yeah, I’m probably pre-disposed to liking this book, I’ll admit it.
The first part of the book is comprised primarily of Orkin telling his story. It’s fascinating and heart-breaking and even funny. The foreward, contributed by Momofuku owner David Chang, is absolutely hilarious too. The book also lays the necessary foundation for understanding why Orkin started his own ramen shop and, ultimately, why he has been so successful. The bottom line is, he makes a bowl of ramen that he likes, above all else, believing others will too.
And he’s been wildly successful. So much so that following the success of his first shop, Ivan Ramen, he opened a second location in Tokyo, Ivan Ramen Plus. Orkin is also, as of the time he wrote this, in the process of opening a new location in New York City, where his family moved following the devastating earthquakes in Japan in 2011.
After that backstory, Orkin goes and does something completely against the grain: he gives detailed instructions on how he makes his signature dish, shio ramen. He discusses exactly how he makes it, what all the ingredients are, how to make those at home, and how to put it all together. Of course, you will probably have to tweak it some for a home kitchen, but it’s there in its totality. After that, Orkin gives you other recipes you can use the base ingredients for, just in case you don’t want ramen all the time (although I can’t understand why not :)).
I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes, but I certainly can’t accuse him of not being up front with details. He even gives suggestions for substitutions in case you can’t find the exact ingredient stateside.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and it’s given me a new appreciation for what makes a good bowl of ramen. I can’t wait to dig into the recipes and then likewise dig into many bowls of ramen as I work on tweaking the recipe to my tastes.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)