This week I wandered into my local bookstore after work. I spotted this book on the shelf.
I'm always on the lookout for books on Japan—scholarly or otherwise—and I'm a sucker for a cookbook. Food. Book. Here. Money. Anyway, I spotted this one and I got so caught up reading it that I traded money for it.
Ivan Orkin, the owner of Ivan Ramen, has written an autobiographical cookbook explaining how he opened a successful Tokyo ramen joint. After studying Japanese literature in college, he meanders a bit. Actually, he meanders a lot. Ivan works as a line cook, then at a corporation. His wife suddenly dies, and he finds love again. Ivan wanders, and then, he moves to Tokyo and determines to do something meaningful with his life. In this case, open a ramen shop.
He chronicles his adventures of winning over his neighbors, being the Jewish guy winning over Japanese ramen bloggers, and appearing on Japanese t.v. He writes about noodle water percentages. He writes about the habits of ramen masters.
It's a fun book. The writing is sharp and funny. Honest. Apparently he's opening a ramen shop in New York too. If I was in New York, I'd give it a try. The cookbook section, which follows the strange and entertaining autobiography, is full of wonderful pictures and explanations. Orkin acknowledges that his ramen is a huge home-cook project, and he's not joking. An entire batch of his double-broth (chicken and gourmet salt) ramen with homemade noodles is a weekend. But it's a tempting and delicious one.
Noodles aside, his story is worth the price of the book.
What's your favorite noodle?
(My favorite ramen joint in L.A. is the Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. A pork broth that sticks to your bones with a seasoned eggs, bamboo shoots, and piled with toppings. You'll have to pay in cash, and the line is frequently long... I suppose that's a good deterrent, for my heart's sake. )