In my quest for the ultimate ramen in the metro, I had to go beyond the usual ramen shops and look beyond restaurant offerings in the metro. In my journey I found something new, something exciting and something interesting and fun. It was a journey into the heart of ramen by looking to a man who has just recently joined the secluded and cloistered world of ramen makers in Japan.
My journey into the life of Ivan Orkin was through my casual browsing of books to buy on Amazon, in my curiosity and in my deep love of all things that is ramen, I decided to buy a Kindle copy. What I found inside the pages of Ivan's ebook were the struggles and the secrets to making the perfect bowl of ramen. Like most autobiographies, Ivan Orkin follows the path of all aspiring chefs with training and an entrance into some of the most prestigious names in the ramen culinary world. Like many chefs it is their life after their studies that brings their life to a whole new level.
Just like my review of Jen Lin-Liu's "Serve the People", Ivan Ramen's life is punctuated with characters from Japan who help him along his culinary journey into the soul and heart of ramen and noodle-making. There was an old woman who gladly set about teaching Ivan how to make and cook the best noodles, along the way Ivan spots out little cultural nuances that either make or break his journey. Certainly the characters or the people he meets serve to highlight all of these cultural facts.
Apart from the successes that Ivan finds in Japan are also the heartbreaking moments in his life that tested him. The most heartbreaking was the death of his first wife, Mari, and how his whole life turned upside down. Through sheer persistence and the will to really continue on finding his passion in the simple bowl of ramen, he is able to succeed. Ivan brings to light that in a country whose culture is dominated by traditionalist, a gai-jin or foreigner like him, can indeed break into the scene.
The bulk of the Ivan Orkin's autobiography isn't the story of his meteoric rise to fame and stardom but the opportunity to give amateur cooks like you and me to make fine tasting ramen at home. His famed shio ramen and other vital ingredients that make his bowl of ramen magical are dissected bit by bit. Each chapter in the recipes portion of the book come with clear instructions of how to cook ramen. For an amateur cook and lover of all things Japanese, or at least ramen, Ivan Ramen would surely be the best place to start before moving on to higher things in the Japanese culinary world.
A copy of Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Japan's unlikeliest noodle joint can be found here
My name is Alfonso your nerdy history teacher, bookworm and lover of all things cultural and exciting. You can find me in a weekend market, in a bookshop, or eating in Japanese restos during the weekends.